Successful Oven Repair:
Guys, I had a miserable weekend for a number of reasons. I had a terrible head cold, a wisdom tooth suddenly shot through the gums of my mouth, my cats were nonstop fighting, I bought a new brand of gin that I don’t like, I discovered I might have another genetic predisposition for cancer, and then my oven broke. I screamed, reader. I always say that I’ve been screaming when I’m frustrated, but that is usually hyperbole. This time I actually screamed. My throat was raw with anger. I’m a baker at heart, nothing could be worse. How was I supposed to make pizza or bread? How was I supposed to heat my kitchen inefficiently? The oven selection knob fell off and the gizmo inside was flopping loose. I had no idea what happened. I searched for repair manuals online, but to no avail. So, in a huff, I threw myself into my bed. In the morning, I was oddly calm, and started looking for the nearest Whirlpool repair service. But then, I stopped, and I thought, and my inner Jessica Fletcher roared to life. I knew that I could find a solution. I believed in myself! So, I pulled all the knobs off the oven and began looking for differences. Sure enough, the screws that held the thing together were nowhere to be found, two of them were missing. Odd, I thought. I had no way to find out what kind of screw it was without tearing the oven apart, so I fell to the floor. I looked up at the refrigerator and genius struck. There are these highly powerful magnets on my refrigerator, so I ran one along the sealed front panel. Sure enough, something attached to the magnet. I beamed. It took an hour to extract the screws, and then I could put them back onto the knob. My oven worked. I FELT LIKE GOD! I’m still high. I didn’t pay a penny for my triumph, and I could not be more ecstatic. Just call me Martha Stewart.
This promises to be a lengthy installment in this series, but I am quite excited to share with you my unexpected, yet very connected stories about focaccia bread. My love for this flatbread begins last summer on the eve of my 26th birthday. I was in my newest favorite city, Turin, Italy, and I was feeling peckish…but that is absolutely nothing new. I’m always starving. So, I stopped into one of the hundreds of focaccia shops that line every street of that magical city. I bought slices covered in cheese, in tomato, flakes of sea salt, onion, and a dozen varieties I’ve forgotten since. Reader, it absolutely changed my life. I say that about a lot of things, but I’m usually serious. I ate my weight in focaccia in those halcyon days, and when I boarded the train back to France, my only regret was that I had not bought enough focaccia to rest me the rest of my life. It’d be stale, of course, so that wasn’t a total failure. I think of that damned marvelous bread every single day of my life — that is no exaggeration, my beloved readers. So, last night, I decided that it was finally time to make my own. I found a recipe in a Williams-Sonoma cookbook I’ve had since I was a freshman in high school. That is a very special book. It taught me how to bake. And it inspired such a love of the art that I made sure I moved to Paris to study pastry at Le Cordon Bleu. And that changed my life, too. Being a baker is the crux of who I am as a person. It inspires everything I do in some way. So, I had a happy little tear run down my cheek when I found a new digital version of that cookbook with a recipe for focaccia. I made it immediately, and the process was immensely satisfying. The dough was smooth and cooperative, it rose with no complaint, the fragrance that poured out of the dough was intoxicating, and the finished product was perfectly crisp on the outside with a delicate crumb inside. As I dipped a hearty portion of focaccia into a quick marinara I whipped up, I was transported across the Atlantic. I was in Turin again, walking along the arcades, nibbling on a portion of cheese covered bread, perfectly at peace and absolutely in love. I am so ready for my next trip there. I need the peace and calm of the Piedmont in my life.
I am very blessed that my best friend followed her dreams and opened a bakery. It’s been a fantasy for years, and now that it’s real, it’s better than I ever dreamed. Tons of work for her, though, and I applaud her endlessly. Every week, Jessica and I go down to make macarons, which is another blessing for me. If you know anything at all about me, I adore macarons in a way that makes little sense. I am passionate about those little almond dream boats. I eat them wherever I can find them so that I can spit them out in disgust and feel triumphant in the fact that my macarons are the greatest in the United States. I am not being vain. I have gone all over the nation, but I have only found a few that live up to my expectations. And so, I am confident that when the Food Network finally rings me up for one of those competition shows, I will be the victor with my beloved macaron recipe. Anyway, now I have the opportunity to bake with professional equipment in a large scale way, and it makes my heart absolutely sing. I can do experimentation with little risk. If I could make macarons every day of my life, well, I would be the happiest man in the world. This week, I have been absolutely suffering because of a wisdom tooth that decided to pop out of my jaw. It has been endlessly painful, and the drugs I’m taking to kill the throb have turned me into something of a zombie. I’m exhausted all the time. I’ve slept through my alarm clock each morning since I filled that prescription. It’s terrible. So, this week I didn’t feel up to making my beloved Pierre Hermé lemon cream. Instead I did a blackberry compote without a lot of expectations. Well, reader, I have to confess that these macarons surpassed my wildest dreams. They were insanely good. I shocked myself, and now they are easily one of my favorite variations. The shells turned out gorgeous, too, and we speckled the tops with edible white paint to look a bit like a galaxy…or a chicken egg…whatever speaks to you…and I was so happy. I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews. Bless blackberries and bakeries and best friends.
I will get this out of the way now because it annoys me. Yes, I am well aware that I am not fat. I am perfectly conscious of the fact. However, it recently came to my attention that I can barely wriggle into my skinny jeans anymore after they’re washed and dried. (I’ll never make that mistake again!) So, I weighed myself. Reader, I advise against this. To my shock and utter horror, I had gained fifteen pounds. Where in hell did that come from? So I stopped and thought about the endless pizzas, monstrous bowls of popcorn, egg salad sandwiches, cakes, and kettle chips that have been my main sources of food for the past few months. It all made sense. So, since I’m going to California in two months, I decided I had better get myself back in order. I loaded up my fitness apps, and I reinstalled batteries in my scale. I scoured my cupboards, and I figured out how to eat only 1600 calories a day and not want to murder anybody. Or so I thought. I really don’t want to kill anybody, but I’m quite testy. I’ve gone down four pounds in a week, so I’m thrilled, but the thing that is driving me the most insane is how very bored I am. As you know, my darling readers, I only believe that boring people get bored — a pithy catchphrase of mine that I love tossing out — and I still believe in. HOWEVER, when you are on a diet, you find yourself with a lot of time that you used to spend gorging yourself and cooking. Now I have loads of free time. So, when I watch my movies for my film appreciation class, I just sit there, watching, my mind roaming, my fingers jittery. I WANTED POPCORN. I wanted a cocktail. I wanted a massive salad. But I could have none of those things because of that incredibly helpful LOSE IT app on my phone that was guilting me into health. I will forever love being thin, and like the wise Kate Moss said, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” BUT IT IS HELL.
Original Bombay Dry Gin:
Gin is my liquor of choice. I will always take a gin martini over a vodka martini. There’s simply nothing better than that strong herbal flavor. It’s an acquired taste, I think, since so many people say that they don’t care for it. However, I have long adored gin. The very first gin and tonic that I had was in a plane going to Florida. It was a minuscule bottle of Bombay Sapphire and I thought I was hella elegant. I still have the little bottle in my lounge. I never bought high quality gin at home, though. I consider myself the poorest wealthy person. I’m literally a land heiress, but that does not translate to loads of ready income…which is annoying. So I spent much of my life buying Seagrams. I didn’t think this was a big deal until I started going out with friends a couple times a month and drinking good quality gin and tonics. Tanqueray became my bae. So I decided it was well worth it to have this as the gin I keep at home. I have lived my best life with a giant bottle of Tanqueray on my liquor shelf. When I was at the grocery store last night, I did a very foolish thing. I decided to buy a different brand of good quality gin just to see if it was good enough and save me five dollars. Reader, I have to tell you, I have done a lot of stupid things in my life, but I don’t think I’ve ever made a poorer decision. The bottle of Original Bombay Dry Gin was so beautiful and I was so excited, but then when I made my drink, it was VILE. Seriously, it tasted pungently of medicine. This was not the delicate herbal gin I had long loved. So, I will make my gin and tonics with a much weaker gin ratio until I can rid myself of this horrible liquor and go back to Tanqueray. I want to try Beefeater, too, but I’m so scared that it will be just as bad as this Bombay shit. I’ll just remain faithful to my dear green bottle of Tanqueray. As a friend said on Facebook, if it’s good enough for the Queen Mum (may she rest in peace), it is more than good enough for me.