Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The internet was too much with me

Beethoven makes it look like someone actually plays the piano.
Note: This post was eaten after I published it this morning yet saved on the computer in an early draft form. I have restored as best I can remember. Mysterious.

I've been out of sorts, to put it mildly. Two changes in daily life seem to be helping the situation:

1. Last week I put the MacBook on the piano and the Beethoven bust on the MacBook and set some rules about my internet use. The internet had started bumming me out on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. It seemed like breast cancer was always "trending" and people were falling into sinkholes and strangers wrote stupid, crass comments on stories I loved and friends weren't emailing me back quite fast enough which was probably because I'm a drip and maybe there was a cheap Oriental rug on eBay that would work in the hall and shouldn't I check even though I always feel like a dupe when I buy anything on eBay? Et cetera.

I haven't missed that place at all. I keep a list of things I need or want to do on the internet and go online twice a day. I can check favorite sites and pay bills an see what movies are opening on Friday and write my blog, but when I'm done with the list I have to stop and put the MacBook back on the piano and Beethoven on top of the MacBook.

It's a little dull and static out here at first and I don't have a new appreciation for daffodils or cherry blossoms or anything like that, but I'm definitely less miserable. The real world is much calmer than the virtual one, which is funny given that it's only in the real world that cancer and sinkholes and almost everything else actually happens.

I'm not preaching about this, by the way. I spent many years merrily bouncing around the internet and there was nothing wrong with that until suddenly there was.

2. As I mentioned, I now cook only one dish for dinner every night. Huge! I can't believe I didn't figure this out 10 years ago, but there are lessons you can only learn in weary middle age. Like many Americans, I grew up believing that a proper dinner meant three different foods on the plate and I was determined to produce such a triangle every night. When I had the energy, which I could sometimes dredge up with a goblet of wine, I aspired to a quadrangle that would include dessert.

What is the shape of my new dinner model? A large dot?

A few nights ago I made Smitten Kitchen's excellent cranberry bean, walnut and feta salad. I messed with the recipe a little (more beans, more walnut, more feta as the dish was a little dressing heavy.) Much loved, perfectly sufficient. It's not like anyone in this household is malnourished.

The next night I chopped up some chard stems and sauteed them in olive oil then put them in the pot of leftover beans and bean broth. I added pasta shells and served with Pecorino cheese and a dollop of cold ricotta. Casual. Improvisational. Elegant. I felt like Tamar Adler. No one asked where the salad was.

Last night I made the soba with walnuts and dipping sauce from Japanese Farm Food. I was tempted to cook some vegetables to fill out the plate nutritionally/texturally/visually as soba noodles are cold and gray and stark, but I willed myself to stop because I really had no desire to cut up cauliflower or peel carrots and then nag everyone to eat them like I've been doing for years and years. We'll eat vegetables another night in soup or pasta or whatever. I was relaxed and the kitchen was miraculously tidy for 7 p.m.

Friends, I don't think I'm ever going back to the triangle.

On another subject, I baked David Lebovitz's famous ginger cake and took it to my sister's house for dinner on Sunday. My father, who is not an effusive man, gasped when he tasted it and has sent me two emails praising the leftover cake he took home. It's crazy how much people love this dark, damp, puddingy cake. I say "crazy" because this is the second time I've baked it and it contains too much molasses for my taste. But it's likely that any molasses is too much molasses for me just as any dark chocolate is too much dark chocolate for me so I'm discounting my own judgement. If my father, sister, husband, daughter, son and half the people on the evil internet all love a cake, it is an amazing cake. The recipe is here.


  1. I so appreciate your take on avoiding the internet. If my job didn't require using it, I would jump on board. As such, I am often sucked in to reading sensationalist articles, warding off trolls, and viewing most people as vain, cruel, or stupid. Maybe it's time I changed jobs!


  2. Ditto on your avoidance of internet overload, but it is so difficult to kick the habit. The laptop just sits there waiting to entertain me so I won't have to entertain myself (or do any work). But I am with you, it is soul-sucking. I also try to only get on 2X/day. Hooray for your endorsement of less than the triangle! You were making me feel so inadequate and lazy! Let's just call your new dinner model "creative one dish meals". Not very original, but quite appropriate.

  3. I love every single bit of this post! My version of cutting back though is with local news and actually - news in general. I listen to NPR in the morning and that is sufficient... the rest is awful - it makes me afraid and sad or grossed out. I also love your theory about dinner and you're feeling like Tamar Adler. Love your writing, blog and topics! Thank you for being a bright spot in my internet travels!

  4. I need to break my internet addiction. Very difficult to do.

    I adore Lebovitz's ginger cake. It's the gingerbread of my dreams.

  5. Good for you for cutting back on internet.
    Such a fun, clever visual way to remind yourself by placing Beethovan bust on top. His gaze would make me stop and think twice.

    The 'dot' sounds healthy in so many ways.
    Thanks for the great ideas, Jennifer!

  6. I love my giant bag of local, frozen peas and the frozen veg. button on my microwave. This lets me make one item dinners a lot. Also, the last few issues of Bon Appetit have had a bunch of good one pot recipes--chicken curry, chicken and dumplings among them.

    The internet is bugging me because I feel like I'm writing my heart out, and all I get is spam, and spam from the same addresses that my stupid internet whatever can't get smart enough to weed out. Feh to all of that.

  7. I'm so glad you finally made the David L. ginger cake. It doesn't look like much but it's a showstopper, taste-wise. I wish you liked it more! And I'm totally with you with the one-dish regime. A bag of frozen peas adds that hint of vegetable to almost any meal.

  8. I love this post. Also, I love that cake. But there is something almost chocolatey about it, definitely the color, but also the taste. So i'm not surprised you don't like it. Also, i'm very curious what the fat book under your laptop "Cities of Destiny" is about.

  9. I love your idea about keeping a list of what you need to do so you can limit your internet time. I am forever sitting down to renew a library book or something small (that I have to do RIGHT THEN or I will forget) and then checking FB, or my Google Reader, etc. etc. and there goes another 30 minutes of my time.

    I think for me, the internet is a really great procrastinating tool. I'm a terrible procrastinator and it is an easy way to put things off because it's such a time-sucker. I'm determined to remedy that and your suggestion will definitely help me!

  10. save me a piece of gingerbread cake!
    i am on my way!

  11. I am just a little confused, what are these weird off topic posts coming from? I have noticed them on the last couple of blogs, they have nothing to do with the posts or food or anything related to anything said. What is this about? BTW I should mention I have no clue about the internet, blogs or related issues. But I do love this site and I love the thoughts on food, etc.

  12. How "little" are you confused? The posts come from the person writing the blog.

  13. Not the blog itself, but from time to time in the comments section there is a totally off the wall comment usually about something that has nothing to do with the topic. And then later, they are gone. I understand the comments are from people who read the blog, not the tipsy baker herself except in reply to a comment.

  14. Anonymous 7:14 and 10:00--those are spam from spambots. You'll find them smattered in comments sections all across the internet. They disappear when a blog administrator goes in and deletes them.

  15. Anonymous -- I thought you were talking about MY weird, off-topic posts and my face burned.
    That's the internet for you.
    I don't know what to do about the spam. Every day I have to erase 2 or 3 spam comments.

  16. I've lately been on a kick of making a roast chicken on a bed of vegetables for dinner one night, then plopping the carcass in a pot for stock and making the leftover chicken, vegetables and stock into a pot pie (along with some frozen peas!) another night. Two one-dish meals for the price of one. Surprisingly easy if you have a disk of pie dough in the freezer.

  17. Amen, sister, Amen. One of the greatest things to happen to me was moving into a house with one of these Jenn Air stoves with a permanent grill taking up two (previously precious) out of four burners. The limitation (we very rarely grill indoors) frees me up , somehow, to do lots of "dot" cooking.

    Another great thing happened to me by accident: I lost all of my bookmarks from my internet browser. Now I only look up the few things I can remember (because I love them), like your wonderful blog.

  18. I tried to find the Smitten Kitchen cranberry bean salad you have it hidden somewhere? I can't find it on the Smitten website either, unless it's the one with cauliflower in it...please help!

  19. If somebody would make a salad for me every night I would eat it, but I just can't be bothered to do it on my own. the pressure cooker has been an awesome one pot meal creator for me...chicken thighs/peppers/onions. I second the vote for this month's Bon Appetit--the khao soi is stupendous.

  20. Thanks for the cake recipe. I'll make it the next time I visit my dad. We both love molasses!

  21. Oh what the heck, no one tells me anything. You don’t have to have the whole three triangle things going anymore? You can declare liberty from that?

    Jennifer you made me laugh loud enough to startle my children on the “I thought you meant my writing” and the face burning. There is that instant of unlooked for (sometimes misunderstood) negative judgment that causes a sudden rush of involuntary embarrassment.

  22. Thank you for endorsing the "one dish is dinner" idea! It took maybe 30 years of cooking to realize that my family only really wanted (much less appreciated) the full-course meals when the event was special. Once I focused on one thing, or one thing and homemade bread or such, dinner was about the conversation and not food gymnastics. Who knew that I was overwhelming my husband? Still, some days I felt like a slacker so am pretty delighted to read that a cook as dedicated as you have tried this, too.

  23. I just wanted to say that I just got back from the bookstore I used to work at and your book and Burma are booth stocked in multiple copies, and facing out for lots of visibility. It made me smile.

    I also just picked up Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries 2 and am resisting going back for Burma because I think I just overspent my book budget.

  24. I just tried the ginger cake and I have to say I don't care for it. I normally love gingerbread and gingerbread-y cakes with a passion, so I'm almost embarrassed not to be crazy about this one. I agree with the previous commenter who says there's something reminiscent of chocolate. I love chocolate also, and having this remind me of chocolate without actually being chocolate is somehow frustrating.

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