Home is hopefully not where the sourdough starter is

Day 4

Got home from Russian tutoring. Smelled sourdough starter. IT KIND OF SMELLS LIKE SOURDOUGH!!!!!!!!! Am deeply excited. Also pleased that it is still bubbly and that I did not murder it by dumping most of it down the drain.

Dumped half of it down the drain, again. (I never learn.) Added one ounce of flour—or rather, 1.13 ounces—and 1.66 ounces of water, because I did not realize how heavy water is. (It was like 50 mL which is a very small amount.)

I have stirred it and put its pot-holder hat on it. Good night.

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Look at the bubbles and just ignore absolutely everything else about this

 

Day 5

We are all in the exact same situation that we were in yesterday. The sourdough starter, who I think should have a name, has gotten some new interesting yeast (I’m guessing; I don’t know what it does all day), and I have not done anything worth noting.

 

Day 6

I think it’s dead.

 

Day 7

It looked very sad and not bubbly when I woke up. I gave it some more food and put it on the kitchen table, which it seemed to like better than the counter. The internet says it is probably not dead, but just slow and tired.

 

Day 8

I left it alone for 1.5 days while I went home for Passover. There has been no change. I think it might be too cold—my apartment doesn’t have heat anymore because it’s “spring.” So I made it a nice little nest next to my router and modem, because they are warm.

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Day 9

IT IS FREEZING IN HERE. It is snowing out but the heat is not on because it’s April. The sourdough and I are both very sad. I have put it in the oven and turned the light on, because that will make it nice and toasty in there but will not kill it. (It will waste an enormous amount of electricity, though.) In fact, I just stuck my head in to check on it and feed it and wished to curl up and go to sleep there. But in a very normal, mentally healthy way [ha ha like i know anything about that].

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(The glow in the corner is the oven light.)

 

Day 10

😥

 

Day 11

There is heat again in my apartment, and THE STARTER IS ALIVE AGAIN!!! This has been an emotional rollercoaster. I still do not trust it, though, and it does not trust me. Thus its constant dying.

 

Day I have absolutely no fucking clue

I have put it in the fridge, where it will wait until I am able to deal with it.

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SOOUUUURRRDOOOUUUGHHHHHH

This post is approximately one hundred years in the making, i.e., I’ve been thinking about and putting off making sourdough for roughly one hundred years. HOWEVER, I’m writing a story where the protagonist basically is having a mental breakdown and makes a lot of bread (which is obviously autobiographical, but she’s more advanced than me and makes sourdough, so I figured I would have to learn so as not to let her get ahead of me) (and also so I can see if the story makes any sense). I’ve been working on this story for almost a year and I’m SO tired of it (I’m on draft 6.2, per my numbering system) and I’m hoping that the sourdough experiment will somehow push it into being finished.

So I got this brilliant idea at the library during writing group, and then I got home and started preparing, and then realized that Passover starts on Friday. But I think the starter itself will be ready right around Friday, so then I can put it in the fridge (where it will enter a state of suspended animation) and revive it after Passover ends (much like happened to Khan, but hopefully the starter will be less distressed/violent). And then I can have sourdough to break Passover. It will be very exciting.

I am starting with Phickle’s sourdough starter tutorial; it’s based on Tartine Bakery‘s book (link courtesy of my neighborhood independent bookstore!), and thus should be good. It looks easy to follow, thus its appeal (and it was the first thing I found). If anything goes terribly wrong I’ll consult Breadtopia, which is a very soothing and lovely site.

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Everything is going exactly according to plan, no issues here whatsoever.

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THE MTA SUCKS pineapple

Wow, I am super not in the mood for this. I was trying to get over writer’s block by writing some nonsense here but I already don’t feel like listening to myself. Oh well I already took all the #relativelyshitty photos (that was self-deprecating in a charming way, but actually they are not good photos) so I have to write. Please send me a story idea and I will write it.

I went to the supermarket, as usual, and I was very cranky when I got there because I was hungry, and the supermarket was entirely full of couples fighting and children having mental breakdowns, so I joined them and also had a mental breakdown. This was brought on mostly by walking back and forth several times trying to find barley, and then it was where I thought it was all along. Then I spent 400 hours trying to decide what ice cream to get, and trying to find feta cheese. Long story short, I bought a pineapple.

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If you brought me diamonds, if you brought me pearls, if you brought me roses like some other gents might bring to other girls, it couldn’t please me more than the gift I see—a pineapple for me.

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Always obey the New York Times. (NOT.)

On Wednesday I got back to work from vacation and was reading my email and the New York Times was like, you should make broccoli rabe lasagna this weekend, and I was like, YES IN FACT I SHOULD. I very impressively went grocery shopping after work the next day in the middle of a polar vortex or whatever it is this time (it WASN’T THAT COLD, PEOPLE. You all need to spend a winter in Estonia). (Or Siberia, I guess. But I got there after January and it wasn’t that cold. Only like -10°C. I once told my teacher I was cold and she gave me this very pitying look and said, “This is very warm for us.” But now I know that she was doing that thing where you try to seem cool by pretending you’re not cold. I have embraced it, as you see. But it’s really not that cold here though. The inside of your nose doesn’t even freeze.)

Anyway, I decided there was no need to leave the apartment all weekend, since I had to finish copyediting (I want to link to the book but I can’t decide if I shouldn’t???), and also use the cold as an excuse to have a much-needed two full days without talking to anyone. I had stocked up on baking and food things, so in between copyediting I made toasted rye molasses chocolate chip cookies (we hate Chris Kimball now, though, right? oh well) and pear bread and watched Good Behavior, this show I became obsessed with on the plane back from Shanghai and which caused a rift in my friend group because I said the main guy was the hottest guy of all time and none of them agreed. Anyway, a lot of exciting things happened on the show, so I made extensive mistakes in the baking processes, but it’s fine.

Cookies

So beautiful cookies. They taste like normal cookies.

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Friday night catless rye bread

Good day! I am back in America and back in my normal life after a three-year break. So I am also returning to my tendency to buy expensive ingredients and cook difficult things out of boredom and a vague, undefined, unimportant loneliness. And because I only just want to write, but I am not settled enough–feeling in my apartment to write, but this is almost like writing. Also, I do not have a cat, because certain parents who will remain unnamed did not want to give me their cat, even though I gave them my cat (HAHA I just tried to write a closing italics tag in HTML but actually wrote < /cat> which is very funny and also what happened to Fitzpatrick) so there’s only going to be bad food pictures in this post.

This is a three-day weekend and I forgot that you have to make three days’ worth of plans for such things, so I made like maybe 1.5 days’ worth of plans, which would be fine if you were in Russia because you could go to your Russian single-combat private lessons or watch propaganda and learn about “the Ukraine” or just daydream about being in Russia. But here I haven’t figured out what to do with myself yet, so I am returning to old habits. And bread takes forever to make (and at the end you get bread). Continue reading

Plov with Young Chicken: The Soviet Experiment, Part 1

Here commences the Great Soviet Experiment (or perhaps, that is, the second Great Soviet Experiment). I will be cooking something from each former republic, in order, because I am back in America and have nothing to do and miss the Soviet Union (historically and geographically).1 (That is, I will do this one and then probably forget about the whole thing.) I’m starting with Azerbaijan because it comes first in the Russian alphabet, and I’m doing this from a Russian cookbook.

It’s called Cuisines of the Caucasus and Central Asia, by William (or Vil’yam) Pokhlyobkin (Вильям Похлёбкин)—he’s also done cookbooks on the Slavic countries and the entire Soviet Union, which I thought was what I bought, but I guess it was too heavy so I got this one instead. It was a while ago in Bishkek, I don’t remember anything. (Important note about Pokhlyobkin, whose name is impossible to spell in English: it seems like he’s an expert on Russian cuisine, and just sort of decided to branch out into Central Asian and other former Soviet, so we should maybe not trust him too heavily. But it is nice to use the Russian-language cookbooks that one has bought. Also, apparently he once got into trouble for writing a book about tea.)

Anyway. For Azerbaijan, we are doing a chicken plov (#plov), because most of the other dishes were much meatier (mostly lamb), and no. Plov is basically a dish of rice and meat from Uzbekistan/Turkey/many other places that they eat all over the former Soviet Union because, at least in Russia, they are obsessed with the food of their culinarily better neighbors/take-over-ees. There are literally entire books about plov, which is something I would like to own, so I will not go into more detail on it here. It is very complicated.

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The last new place / последнее новое место

I guess this is now a tradition: the first post in the new kitchen in the new country. I’m in Siberia now (since Thursday) and I’ve been eating only pelmeni since then (literally), but today I finished cleaning, and it was -27°C outside, so I decided to stay in and make dinner. Cook something other than hot-pot mac-and-cheese for the first time in five months.

While I was chopping the onion—or actually crudely hacking it—I was thinking: this is just making a normal weekday dinner, this is not “deciding not to bother and going out to Cooksoo at the last minute” or “let’s experiment with cool Estonian things I found in the supermarket”—this could just be, I’m at home and living my life. Like I will for the entire rest of my life. This is what it will be like when I get back to the US in June after three years abroad—exactly the same as it was before I left (except worse, because without my cat, who cruelly and unnecessarily abandoned me by dying). I don’t want to stay abroad but I don’t want to go back either.

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This is the view from my kitchen table/desk. ПРИВЕТ, РОССИЯ!

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For Hillary

This is just going to be a personal post. It’s not going to be inspiring (though, links at bottom) and it will definitely sound super selfish. Commiserating today has been helping me. So, this is where I am at for now.

I still feel sick. I’ve been crying for two days straight. My heart—and you know I mean this, because I hate talking about my heart—is broken into a million, billion pieces. For me, for Hillary, for our country, that we don’t get to see her as president. I wanted that more than anything.

On Tuesday night, before I went to sleep—around midday in East Coast time—I had never been so excited in my life. I’ve been waiting for this since the 2008 primaries. I’ve loved and admired Hillary for a really, really long time. I honestly don’t remember how I decided on her back then. I remember how excited and proud I was, standing in a New Haven library and filling in my ballot for her, to be voting for a woman, a strong, progressive, feminist, just fucking awesome badass woman. And I’ve been with her ever since—just, really quietly, because of all the times I’ve had people (mostly men) tell me I was wrong. And then. Well.

In my Russian conversation class today, when we were talking briefly about the election, my teacher said to me, “All the students have been in bad moods today, but you seem really upset. Why is this so close to you?” I just kinda mumbled, “It’s hard to say.” Partly because I didn’t want to start crying again, partly because many of the reasons were things I wouldn’t have felt safe saying while I’m living in this country, partly just because it is hard to explain.

I’m a Jewish, queer, slightly mentally ill woman. That’s not really why this scares me so much. I’m white, and I can hide the rest of it, which I do, most of the time, which I’m ashamed of. So, hi—here’s the truth. This election will change me. It’s hard to say “home” right now when I think of that place, but: I will do everything I can to change this country when I get home.

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I made baked ziti tonight (sort of). This post was going to be about it. About how it’s my home, but that sounded stupid. And it’s not MY home that matters. But this is how I am trying to make myself stop being so tired and sad and despairing and get up. It didn’t work, but I’ll try again.

 

I’m also collecting links to YES LET US GO FIGHT articles:

Ask Polly
Daily Kos
Deadspin
HuffPo
Jezebel
Leslie Knope (Vox)
Man Repeller
Medium 1
Medium 2
Slate

Hot plate hot problems

I don’t really know what the title of this post means. I only have a hot plate in my kitchen here, so I am going to be experimenting with Hot Plate Cooking. I haven’t even made the dish in question yet, so maybe it will be fantastic. Haaahahaha it will not.

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This picture has nothing to do with the post, I just like it. It’s from the Osh Bazaar.

Today I discovered a horrible truth: there are apartment-hunting websites far, far, far, far, far worse than Craigslist out there. Like, I am sitting here actively thinking I WISH THERE WERE CRAIGSLIST IN BISHKEK. This seems like a very bad sign just about life in general. (The ads here either don’t tell you where the apartment is or who the roommates are, or they want a girl who will pay no rent in exchange for making borsht.) Continue reading

New year new country new coffee

Hello from Kyrgyzstan! I have been here for almost a week and am like on the verge of beginning to attain normalcy here. ALMOST. Beginning.

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In the vicinity of Ala-Too Square (the main square in Bishkek)

In the course of my explorations today I went to a new grocery store and was deeply delighted to find that they had my favorite instant coffee. Yes, this is the previously untold end of the saga of the instant coffee taste test: I won. I am actually slightly embarrassed by this. Not only did i find an instant coffee I kind of liked, after almost a year of drinking it I have turned into some sort of horrible instant coffee lover. An instant coffee lover who is horrible, that is; not a lover of horrible instant coffee. I love only the finest instant coffee. I will maintain (with deep shame) until my dying breath that this one is actually good. Continue reading