Isn’t coming home supposed to be glorious, comfortable, and a fleeting sort of happy-ever-after?
Junior year was brutal. You know that feeling when you try to jump over a fire hydrant but because you have stubby baby Asian legs, you end up tripping and fracturing your femur? (Not that this has happened to me or anything, of course.) Junior year was like that, but over and over and over again. I’m going to write a senior thesis! NO YOU’RE NOT YOU IMBECILE BITCH, says the neuroscience department. I resolve to lose weight and be fit and attractive! YOU FORGOT ABOUT WATER WEIGHT, HOPELESS NERD, ridicules my body. I’m going to have friends! HAHAHAHAHA u funnay. Love, the world.
So much for trying new things. Which is why it’s comforting to make the same caramel cappuccino cheesecake five times in a row. When academia and social life and even the sad conglomeration of overtired cells that you call your body fail you, the cheesecake will always come out perfectly creamy and rich yet subtle but altogether delicious, figuratively patting you on the back and telling you with sexy cinnamon undertones that there is still at least something that you can do right.
Coming home is supposed to be comforting like that, but this time it’s different. I was only home for three weeks, and now I’m back at school again for work. On top of this rare and frustratingly short stay, my cousin immigrated to the States just days before I came home and is living with us now. That and the fact that I started this fitness and diet challenge with a friend this summer (encourage me, life has no meaning anymore) means that I could no longer traipse around the house in a bathrobe and wet hair, eating potato salad out of the carton. Now I have to eat spinach and wear clothes and dry my hair and my life is just really hard and it’s all so discomforting. #firstworldproblems
Home’s not supposed to change, you know? Just give me three weeks of comfortable unchangedness so that I can forget about the trauma of the schoolyear. Change is hard, I should know, sings Zooey Deschanel, and she has really big eyes so you know she’s an honest manic pixie dream girl who would never hide the truth.
But then I look back at all of the weird new things I tried this past year – dancing, radio theatre, ginger powder, blogging – and they weren’t all bad. Small doses of change can be fantastic. Like scones. Making and eating scones were a big and open-minded step for me because historically, I hate scones. After marathoning Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, I’ve decided that it might be an American thing, but admit it. All the scones out there look like something that you should sit on, not put in your mouth.
Scones are hard to make as well because the wet to dry ingredients ratio is absurdly low. When kneading the dough, it looks like the entire mess is shedding giant flakes of pasty white skin and it’s hard to make one cohesive dough lump. In order to fix that, I’ve found that it’s vital to freeze the dough for at least a night before throwing it into the oven the next day. My dad thinks it’s weird that I freeze dough prior to baking, but he didn’t complain when he ate three freshly baked scones the next morning, so there.
Ancient Chinese Han dynasty secret to baking: listen to your food when you take it out of the oven; it tells you the exact texture and cookedness of the inside of the pastry. When I went to my boyfriend’s house this past winter, his mother made these chocolate lava cakes FROM GOD. When they were done, I went to the stovetop where the cakes were resting and put my ear to them to listen to their ~*voices*~. I’m sure Ben’s parents regretted their son’s choice in human beings then, but I have pulled them to the dark and informed side because one by one he and his family came over to hear the sweet whisperings of the lava cakes. And indeed they spoke to us: you could hear a quiet, tight crackling sound as realization dawned on their faces and they joined me in my madness. Speak, cake, and we shall hear.
It really works, though. Physically testing the cake is the safest method, but I hate it because makes everything punctured and ugly. Instead, listening to the cake as well as gauging its color is just as effective. If the cake gives a soft, controlled, tight crackling sound, then the inside is very moist, which is what you’d hope for with something like lava cakes. On the other hand, if the cake or bread or cookie or whatever you’re making gives a loud cacophonous crackling sound, it’s dry inside and might be a bit overcooked. This is the kind of sound you want from something like biscotti.
As for the scones, they were a bit loud but had a very dense crackling sound, which was a relief because it meant that while they were heavy, they were also moist inside. And guys, girls, nonbelievers – they tasted amazing. A little raspberry jam spread on the side and my god. You know that moment when you look at someone and you realize that it is meant to be and that the stars have aligned in both your lives to bring you to this very specific and spectacular moment and now the future is not an enigmatic mystery but rather a wondrous flight of fantasy because from this moment on, whatever you brave, you brave together, and your tears will never be unwiped, your sorrows unheard?
It was like that. But possibly better, because scones will never not text back.
I’m too lethargic to find any takeaway from this, besides the newfound knowledge that English food is not as nasty as it looks and that you should never judge a pastry by the American version sold in Starbucks. Still, it’s kind of promising, right? Sometimes you need that one random, small, absurd, unimportant thing to go well to remind you that you’re still capable of brain and life. I’m in humid Vermont for another eight weeks, so it’s a welcome reminder that I’m still okay. It’s my first East Coast summer, and the novelty of it is a bit disconcerting, but if turns out half as well as these scones did, then it won’t be bad at all. Cheers to that. And as the Brits would say, cheerio.