Sunday, October 02, 2005

Planning is for suckers.

I have bragged, and recently, that there's a certain kind of bread--a classic french-style baguette--that I can now make in my sleep (other things: corn bread, muffins, bechamel sauce and variations). I put my own brag to the lie today when I started the bread with just about twice as much water as I needed. I kept adding flour, thinking, "maybe there's extra humidity today." Humidity my ass. I just wasn't paying attention.

At the same time I was making what ended up to be twice as much bread dough as I thought I was making, I was also making raspberry jam. In the middle of ransacking the kitchen for more flour, I grabbed the book I recently located in my cleaning/reorganizing/sorting extravaganza--the book I thought I had lost--about home canning. This, in the middle of the jam-making. How interesting to find out that raspberries are low in both pectin and acid! Useful information to have before you start squeezing lemons and adding sugar and setting all this, along with expensive berries, to boil.

I did manage to scrape together enough flour to make double the bread, but only by opening a bag of spelt flour. [Interesting (or maybe not) aside: spelt is a grain that has never been hybridized, and has been around for millenia. Also kamut, but that's another topic, and another grain, really. When I was in Vermont (at the Artist's Colony, when the Leaves were Turning), they had the most amazing spelt bread, made with a starter instead of commercial yeast. Mmm, especially with butter.] Revenons a nos moutons [French reference for my readers who know French, although I cannot remember the literary work whence this witticism derives, sorry]: this meant that our pizza dough had a certain nutty graininess. All told: the jam set despite the low pectin/acid content of raspberries, perhaps because of added lemon juice?; the pizza was great (yield: two large pizzas, one pepperoni, one veg, a pan of cheese/garlic bread, a bonus loaf of bread for good measure); the kitchen looked like a tornado hit it.

The bones of this narrative pretty much comprise my life, all the decisions I have made from early to late. I start something, to be reminded that with my slap-dash preparation and too-much-going-on-at-once attention span, I'm not much in control of what's going on. Another thing I always say about myself: I look at something--a painting, a beautiful photo, a piece of fabric, some delicious dish at a restaurant--and say, how hard could that be? It's my motto. So I forge ahead without really ever counting the cost or considering how long it will take, or what I really need to know, or even what I really need, before being able to accomplish the thing. Bookmaking, jam-making, dissertation-writing, moving house, blah blah blah. One time I flew to Orange County for a brief conference without my hotel information, thinking that others from my college would be on the plane and staying in the same hotel. I arrived at John Wayne Airport, apparently sans college colleagues, knowing only that I was staying in a Marriott somewhere near an IBM company building. It took my darling and much more level-headed younger sister to find out where my bed was. It's all how hard could that be? or things will sort themselves out, then doing the thing, often sloppily, but often enough, it turns out, successfully enough.

Planners, by which word I mean both people who plan and those fat books people carry around, make me itchy, mainly because they make me feel shoddy and inferior. Planners think about how many kids they should optimally have, and sock away money for those one or two or one and a half kids to go to really good colleges. They don't work on too many committees and they finish their dissertations. On the other hand, think of the everyday thrills: will the raspberry jam set up? Yes! Will this dough ever stop being wet, and will we have pizza? Yes! And bread! Will I wander the streets of Orange County? Or will I sleep in the clean sheets of the Marriott, whichever Marriott that may be?


  1. Last night (as I was watching TV, of course) I marvelled at how y'all have plenty of time to can and bake and clean, while I feel like I can barely feed myself and Son from the small store of canned goods (purchased, of course) that our cabinets will hold. Someone needs to mop the floor and fix the bathroom sink. I've always thought of myself as a planner, but lately, I can't plan myself out of our dirty house. Sigh.

  2. Planning is for suckers. Yesterday, I baked instead of cleaning, or putting away the rest of the laundry, or packing for my backpacking trip that I've had scheduled for months. It seems that better planning would benefit me, but I can never seem to get it together.

  3. I'm a sucker, at least some of the time. As I'm leaving for the amazingly prestigious TYCA-West conference this afternoon, I can very closely relate to Mega's airport story. I just now organized a folder with all the needed info--flight, hotel, etc. but I'm still worried that I do not know where we are meeting for dinner tonight or at what time. To this end I sent off a couple of emails which probably won't get answered. And all this knowing that MB is flying with me and will have all the info anyways. I can't help but obsess about planning but ultimately I'm not that good at it anyways.



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