Monday, August 3 2020

waking up, gumbo, and bread accidents



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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Happy Monday, and welcome to the new week. Hope you’re ramping up for your day without any major issues.

This week, I’ve started the slow trek back to my regular sleep cycle. And even though I only woke up a half hour earlier than usual, I forgot about how much time I used to have in the morning. The house was so still and peaceful, and despite the batch of weekend dishes still littering the sink and a wreckage of dog toys, action figures, and legos scattered on the living room floor, everything seemed so perfect.

Without coffee, it was a struggle at first, but after putting on a Frank Ocean album I began to slowly wind up for the day. I Started a load of dishes, hand washed all the parts to the coffee machine and brewed two pots, took out the garbage, weighed Krang into a bowl and rinsed out his jar before a fresh morning feeding, and finally slumped into a comfortable seat at the computer with a well-deserved fresh cup of coffee.

Sleeping in this summer, I grew to resent all the steps in the morning routine. When you’re rushing through all these things, trying to have as much time to write as possible before the rest of the house wakes up, you grew to resent all these steps. But I get it now. Back when I was een vroege vogel (Dutch for “an early bird”), I used to find this ritual relaxing.

In conclusion, it’s good to be a morning person again.

Sip. Marissa and I had a late night last night. After a quick coding session I joined her downstairs to play video games while she wrapped up studio work. Afterwards, we finished the last few minutes of her movie pick, Bo Burnham’s what. And with just a little bit of time left in the evening, we decided to get a start on the next movie. Strategically waiting for Marissa’s eyes to leave the TV screen, I quickly selected Candyman, a horror film about a lored hook-handed killer that stalked people in the Cabrini Green housing projects in Chicago during the early nineties.

“Did you pick Candyman?” Asked Marissa, panicking once she realized I made my selection. “Shoot - I feel like you picked Candyman.”

“No, I didn’t pick Candyman,” I said, trying to suppress a devilish grin. The words CANDYMAN flashed on the screen and we both bursted into laughter. The movie sucked us in, and we stayed up much later than planned.

“Man, older horror movies are way scarier,” said Marissa as we stood up, brushing the popcorn crumbs away. “They just seem so much more unpredictable.”

In other news, I got excited about a dinner recipe that does a great job hitting the Sunday evening sweetspot where you feel like eating a big meal but don’t feel like putting a lot of work into it. Trolling around YouTube, I caught a new video from cajun chef Isaac Toups, and that put me in a mood to try out his gumbo recipe. “Let it roll for several hours, hell, even leave it on the stove overnight, it’ll be just fine,” he says in his affable Louisiana accent.

I didn’t leave it on the stove overnight, but I did throw it together just after lunch time, crisping up some chicken thighs under the broiler and sweating diced vegetables in a hot chocolate colored roux. Next came the beer, chicken broth, sausage, and the deboned chicken. Like with most soups and broths, I grossly overestimated how much space I had to work with, and it was a little on the chunkier side. But as instructed, I did indeed let it roooooll for several hours. And in the evening, with naught but a simple batch of white rice to make, I was free to lounge around and rough house with Rodney until it was dinner time.

I also had a happy little cooking accident while throwing together a loaf of bread. My recipe calls for 538 grams of cold water and 652 grams of flour. In between each ingredient, I take trips to the kitchen while chatting with Marissa. But the other night, while mixing the dough, I must have spaced out, and with the number 538 ear marked in my brain, I only mixed in 538 grams of flour.

I noticed something was different while mixing the dough and water together, a process that normally takes a few minutes of prodding and hand-stirring. The flour and water mixed suspiciously quickly.

As I folded it in the evening, the dough felt lighter. But I persisted, making sure to give the gluten their due exercise.

“It’s way lighter,” I said, cutting into the accidental science experiment after taking it out of the oven. “Which makes sense. The percentage of water is higher because I shorted the flour.”

Taking her first bite, Marissa’s eyes practically bulged out of her head. “Hot take. I like this bread way better.”

And I’m not sure if it was the scant amount of flour in the recipe, or just our joy from discovering a tastier remix of the usual recipe, but gripped with fresh bread fever we almost finished the whole loaf last night. Only about an inch and a half from the butt remains, and really we left that just so we wouldn’t have to wake up with the shame of literally finishing the entire loaf ourselves last night.

I find it kind of funny. I remember how much trial and experimentation it took to arrive at the 538-652 recipe. Just figures that a complete accident would yield something I like better.

Meanwhile, hacking on the new blog framework continues. Sprawling past 500 lines of code, this project stopped feeling like a minimalist proof of concept, but since then I’ve kind of fallen in love with the problem and I’m enjoying myself. Last night, I was rambling to Marissa over a beer about the code behind the “next post” and “previous post” links at the bottom of each entry.

“It’s called a linked list,” I explained. “It’s a list built one segment at a time, each item simply attached to the next. It’s a little harder to write, but ultimately easier to use.”

Thanks for stopping by today. Have a wonderful Monday, everyone.