push through walls; make linzer cookies
I’m thinking about fear. I think about fear a lot, because I have been trying not to be afraid. I put a lot of work into not being afraid. I want to put my thoughts and my enthusiasm into the world and just see what comes back to me, because what is the alternative? The alternative is stagnation and wondering what would happen if you ever pushed yourself through your walls, so I just drink too much coffee and push myself through. It’s been going well, I think, if only because it has changed how I view myself and my potential. It has changed how I feel about work and possibility.
At the Brooklyn Museum on Saturday, seeing the Kehinde Wiley exhibit, I realized I was getting a feel for looking at art, for understanding it. I’ve been regularly going to see it, reading a bit about it, and it hit me that through not being afraid of delving into something without any knowledge of it, I have learned about it and expanded myself. This is obvious. We are told this happens, but the active practice of being open is a very personal one. It’s similar to the asana practice in yoga: you keep going and, all of a sudden, one day you’re doing a handstand and your whole sense of your body has changed, and thus your mind changes. That’s how I started cooking and baking: just diving in. Cooking, eating, watching food TV, reading food writing obsessively—that’s how I learned. If you just follow recipes, you’ll never feel secure in the kitchen. But these are my passions and my luxuries; whether one can cook or stand on their hands or not is irrelevant to their worth as a human. They're just examples.
Anyway, the fear of not being an expert off the bat, of fucking up: get rid of it. Drink too much coffee and push yourself through your walls. (I'm talking to myself.)
I think about an essay John Frusciante published before The Empyrean came out, “Imrael,” all the time. The closing paragraph is my (long) mantra:
Trying and giving up go hand in hand. But it’s trying that deserves the attention of our will. Giving up is just breathing out. Breathing in is the one we need to remember to do. Breathing out naturally follows. The important thing is just to keep breathing. To try and then just go through all that happens, including not trying. And so we hold our breath sometimes. These things aren’t problems. They are just living. As long as the message you send yourself is that it is important to you to be guided by the creative force inside you, in the long run you are on the same path as the sun. Of course you’ll seem to go up and down, and be in darkness and light. That’s life. The reality of it is that you are a shining star circling through space all the time. So by making your own circular actions (doing some creative or educational activity consistently) you will naturally become more of what you really are. And you are that already. It’s just a game to learn to be it more completely amidst environment, and the illusions of constant change and separateness. One entirety of everything is all there is, ever was, and ever will be.
The Kehinde Wiley exhibit isn’t to be missed. It’s an intense experience, being confronted with the erasure of men of color from art, being immersed in a beauty this world has trained you not to see. His portraits of women are striking, but they lack the depth and nuance and understanding present in those of the men. Or, that's my take from one walk-through.
Food, though. I’ve been eating a lot, per usual. A few weeks ago, I ate at the new Dirt Candy. The respectability Amanda Cohen brings to vegetarian cooking is a salve on my soul, and the meal was quite good—the Korean fried broccoli and portobello mousse, especially. I want to eat there again when it’s more in gear, but who knows when I’ll chance upon a reservation. My thoughts on some other places I’ve been eating will hopefully be published somewhere else soon. Yesterday, though, Sareen and I went to Little Choc Apothecary, a new completely vegan creperie in Williamsburg. We had a mushroom and spinach crepe with added Treeline cashew cheese, plus the Masala crepe, which has pumpkin curried tempeh, almonds, and hemp seeds. Both these savory crepes were rather divine, the mushroom especially, which brought rustic flavors to perfection. For sweet, we did raw berry chia jam with shredded coconut and a classic “newtella” with banana. I tapped out with only a few bites left on the plate, but I was in actual heaven, easily enjoying flavors I’d missed so much.
For the Oscars last night, I made some Linzers. These are an almond shortbread cookie rolled out and cut to be sandwich cookies, with powdered sugar sprinkled on top and raspberry jam in between.
Ingredients (yields 10 sandwich cookies)
200 g butter
106 g sugar
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 t almond extract
260 g flour
40 g almond meal
1. Make the almond meal! Unless you bought some. To make it, blanch almonds by submerging them in boiling water for just a minute so that you can easily remove their skins. Then put them in a food processor until it you have small almond pellets, because you want to stop processing them before it gets to the almond butter phase. If the chunks start to get bigger, you've gone too far. Go farther and make almond butter. If not, though, you've got fresh almond meal.
2. Beat the butter in the stand mixer until it's smooth, then add the sugars. When those are combined, toss in the extracts.
3. Add the flour and almond meal, and mix until a smooth dough forms around the paddle.
4. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour before you roll it out.
5. Preheat the oven to 350. Cut out your cookies, put them in for 6 minutes, rotate, then go another 6 minutes.
6. Once they're cool, shake powdered sugar onto your top layers and spread a thin layer of jam on the bottom ones. Form your sandwiches, then, using a pastry bag fitted with a wide, round hole and filled with jam, add your dollops to the center. This is best Linzer formation technique that I have found.