Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Six Things I Miss About D.C.

1. The Metro
Sure, I got frustrated when I was on a train that broke down, and I hated those winter days when I missed the train by just a second and had to wait in the freezing cold for the next one to appear (I got on at an outdoors station), but I'd gladly take the occasional Metro upset over driving any day. With the Metro, you didn't have to worry about traffic, parking, gas, or designated drivers, which is certainly nice. But what I miss most is my reading time. With a 30 minute commute in each direction, my daily Metro rides added up to an hour of guiltless reading time.

2. Eastern Market
Part farmers market, part craft market, part flea market, Eastern Market is a place I never got tired of. There was always something new to discover, always interesting people to watch, always something tasty to try. There was never nothing to do on the weekend, because there was always Eastern Market.

3. Sushi
Okay, Durham has sushi. It's not something that I can't get here. But good sushi, well, that's another story I'm afraid. I've tried different places. I've sampled from all over the menu. And it's not bad; but it's not good either. It's just kind of bland. The fish that is, and since sushi is all about the fish, that's not good news. And also, rather oddly, about 9/10 of the offerings are tuna. I like tuna, but I like variety more. Oh what I'd give for dinner at Raku...

4. The Writer's Center
Tucked away on a side street in downtown Bethesda, you'll find the Writer's Center, home to a plethora of affordable, interesting, and helpful writing classes taught by published writers. I took a class there nearly every semester and loved it. I got valuable feedback. I learned new tricks. I felt motivated and inspired to write. The area where we live now is supposed to be a hotbed for writers, but there's no writer's center or any other similar organization. The best I've been able to find so far is a few writer's groups, but the huge group sizes and very, very broad assortment of skill, interest, and style make them less valuable to me than the Writer's Center.

5. D.C. Drivers
Seriously. I know all you D.C. residents are sitting there slack-jawed wondering if you read that correctly, but you did. Now I'm not saying that D.C. drivers are good (and Lord knows there are way too many of them), but at least, in my opinion, they were bad in a predictable way. Everyone was trying to get ahead. Here, drivers are just freaking oblivious. In the few months we've lived here, I've had way more close calls than I've had in the entire rest of my life. Driving here is downright frightening. (Makes me miss the Metro even more!). Just in the past couple of weeks, we've encountered someone driving the wrong way down a one-way street (and not an alley, but the very large, very busy one-way street parallel to our own one-way street with its own Interstate exit); a person making a U-turn in the middle of the road without looking to see if traffic (aka us) was coming in the way she now wanted to go; a person who pulled out of Wachovia and almost smack into the side of my car because the two lanes nearest her were clear and who actually bothers to look both ways; a person who decided that even though his lane ended and the cars coming entering the Interstate on-ramp from the other direction had the green light he did not need to slow, stop, or merge, and instead tried to plow right into me; and a person making a turn into the wrong lane (aka the one I was in) at about 35 mph in the library parking lot. And honestly, that's no where near a comprehensive list. It's insane...and only proves the point that the driver's test here is worthless.

6. My Friends
I miss chicken salad sandwiches with Jessica, pub quiz night with Jeff's lab, dinner with Lisa, drinks with Tiffany, game night with Phil and Rian. I miss having around me people who know me well, people I can make plans with at the last minute, people I can meet at a cafe for drinks, gossiping, and bitching, people who I can invite over even if the house is a little bit messy and I haven't cooked anything special, people I can ask for a favor, people that make my life more interesting and more fun.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mmmm Bread

Is it possible that there are people on this earth that don't love bread? Who are able to sit down at a table at which there is a loaf of warm, fresh bread and not have any? I don't believe it possible. I believe that any normal human being seated within arm's reach of such a loaf will eat not just one but many, many slices. At some point, they'll realize what they have done and for a moment be dismayed at all the carbs they've consumed, but then they'll reach out and take another slice. Good bread is just impossible to resist.

Which is why we're in big trouble here.

For Christmas, Jeff gave me this book.

In case you can't tell the title is "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day." He'd sampled two loaves made by people who owned the book and was sold. He wanted this kind of bread in his life. And so I got the book for Christmas. That's how boys work in case you didn't know.

And so, one weekend in January, when there wasn't a darn thing to do but sit inside and moan about how darn cold it was outside and how everyone we knew in North Carolina was a liar because they all claimed the winters were mild, so, so, mild, we decided to make our first batch of homemade bread.

I was suspicious of the five minute claim. But churning out the dough turned out to be simple: throw some yeast, warm water, salt, and flour into my mixer and let it go.

A few twists and turns of the dough hook, and we've got dough. Lots of it. The awesome thing about this book and its recipes is that when you make the dough, you make enough for about five loaves. And the dough can be stored in your refrigerator for up to two weeks, meaning all you have to do when you want a fresh loaf is pull out a bit of dough, not start from scratch.

And for all you sourdough fans, the bread gets more sourdoughy over the course of the two weeks without requiring you to maintain a starter or anything difficult or time consuming like that.

Now though the book claims you can have artisan bread in five minutes that's not really true. Though making the dough itself definitely took five minutes or less, you've still got to bake it. This part takes longer. For starters, you've got to heat the oven.

And you've got to shape your loaf and let it rise.

Then comes the very, very, very hardest part. You have to sit and wait while your bread cooks. You have to be patient while your house fills with the smell of warm, delicious bread. You have to continually wipe the drool off your face. It's difficult. But if you can make it the twenty or so minutes it takes for your dough to transform into a loaf of delicious bread, warm and chewy on the inside, nice and crispy on the outside, then you will be rewarded greatly.


We're addicted. Which, I guess, explains the fact that we have a 25 pound bag of flour in our hall closet.