Since it's Soup Season, seems like it's time for something you can dunk. Starch is how I get my kids to eat lots of things-- "Three more bites of your curry, then you can have another piece of bread." Or "Another tablespoon of wasabi, then you can have a biscuit." Especially if we're eating down the same pot of soup for 3 nights in a row, I try to switch it up with cornbread, biscuits, and other carb-craving things that can be slathered with butter. This morning Wyatt said to me, "Mom, you know what I could eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday? Bread with butter." I suppose that's better than Sour Patch Kids.
These biscuits are quick as your wrist can stir, and delicious warmed for breakfast the next morning with eggs. Drop biscuits are not my default, but my trusty biscuit cutter has now actually BROKEN from so much use, so it's forced me out of my rut a little bit.
While you're baking these up, I'm going away on a silent retreat for a couple days. (Thank you, dearest Yancey). I wouldn't quite say I'm going to "find myself," especially since those of you who know me might say, "What? Isn't that what you're always doing?" I may be an extrovert, but I'm about the most introspective one you'll ever meet. So I don't think I'm totally lost, but I need some recalibration. Without giving everything away here, I'll just say some deep-seated Fear of Failure issues won't leave me alone, and it's really time to deal with them.
I want to always be learning, and that means failure will be part of it. Ever impervious, Yancey always says, "So what?! You just try again." This is the guy who got a job as a fine woodworker with no experience, built two houses just to see if he could do it, then worked, rejection after rejection, to get into the fire department for three years. Thank God I'm not married to someone as naval-gazing as myself. We'd go on retreats once a month and never actually get anywhere.
After reading the book in 2005 and then seeing the movie this summer, I finally checked out the actual Julie and Julia blog, stagnant now for a few years. No photos, no ads or endorsements, but some really good writing. The last entry, on the day of Julia Child's death, says this:
Who knows how it happens, how you come upon your essential gift? For this was hers. Not the cooking itself so much – lots of people cook better than Julia. Not even the recipes – others can write recipes. What was Julia’s true gift, then? She certainly had enormous energy, and that was a sort of gift, if a genetic one – perhaps the one thing about her you can pin down on the luck of the draw. She was a great teacher, certainly – funny, and generous, and enthusiastic, with so much overbrimming confidence that she had nothing to do with the surplus but start doling it out to others. But she also had a great gift for learning. Perhaps that was the talent she discovered in herself at the age of 37, at the Cordon Bleu School in Paris – the thirst to keep finding out, the openness to experience that makes life worth living.
I got teary reading that--that Julia's true gift was her gift for learning, that she didn't really discover it until she was 37. I've been thinking about this quote all week, and feel like I was meant to read it before my Introspection Summit. It's a privilege to spend any time at all trying to uncover my essential gift--Filipinos are digging themselves out from the flood of the century, we are still at war. I know I always give disclaimers like this. They aren't meant to discredit my angst, but to put it in perspective. And maybe to say that now, more than ever, the world needs all of us figuring out how to give our essential gifts.
So these two days have seemed frivolous to me, at moments, until I recognize that staying stuck doesn't help anybody. I'm off, with a jar of chai and my french press, to keep learning how to learn; fingers crossed that I'll return with a less entangled version of myself in tow.
Cheddar and Chive Biscuits
Adapted from my Gourmet cookbook. They call for scallions (green onions) which would be great, as would all sorts of other things--finely chopped red onions, fresh herbs. I used chives because my little clump is still producing away.
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 oz sharp white (or other) Cheddar, coarsely grated (1 1/2 cups)
Handful of chives, finely chopped
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
Preheat oven to 450°F.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, then blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in Cheddar and scallions. Add buttermilk and stir until just combined.
Drop dough in 12 equal mounds about 2 inches apart onto a buttered large baking sheet. Bake in middle of oven until golden, 18 to 20 minutes.