Cook. Write. Teach. Make.

I recently reviewed Gail Simmons’ memoir, Talking With My Mouth Full, and despite the fact that it was sort of “inside baseball” for foodies and Top Cheffies, part of her story has really stuck with me. In her memoir, Simmons explains that when she graduated from college, she didn’t really have much direction in terms of a career. A family friend told her to make a list of the things she loves to do and to let that be her guide. Simmons’ list was Eat, Write, Travel, Cook. And she’s done a fairly impressive job of incorporating those four loves into her career.

I think about her four words a lot as I emerge from the fog of graduation, go to work at my temp job (where the work has slowed down so considerably that I’m often getting paid to balance my checkbook, write thank you notes, and browse Pinterest), and work on freelance stories and pitches. I have a research project on the back burner that I would really like to make some forward progress on, but I just haven’t taken the time to sit down with the texts in question and start digging in for research. (I’m hoping that once my temp requisition ends I’ll be able to devote some serious time to writing and research.) I have recently seen a tiny bit of traction on the academic front in that it looks like I’ve picked up one class (a survey of British literature, of all things) at a local private university, but I can’t help but sometimes let myself go down the rabbit hole of bitterness about my academic career.

So, I have to make my own list of things that I love the most and find a way to make those work for me. The title of the post is a bit of a spoiler in that regard: Cook. Write. Teach. Make. These are the things I love to do, and I need to let them be my guide. I’ve been doing some cooking for others beyond my family lately and it makes me happy to see them happy with what I’ve fed them. The writing, well, that’s a no brainer. I won’t ever stop doing that. (In fact, look for an uptick in posting here once I’m done temping!) Teaching may have to take different forms than what I am accustomed to, but I’m open to exploring the possibilities. And the make? Well, it’s time for me to dust off the sewing machine and the knitting needles. I gain enormous satisfaction and pleasure from making things to wear, to give to people, or just because. I may not fashion a career out of it, but I can certainly gain some peace from it. And peace is what I need most right now.

It feels a little strange to include a recipe in this post, but since I started with the review of Gail Simmons’ book, I’ll end with it. Part of the reviewing process meant testing one of the recipes at the back of the book. The “tear off a hunk of baguette and eat it with a hunk of Gruyere cheese” recipe seemed a little easy (and may actually be something I “review” later today), so I opted for the frozen chocolate, peanut butter, and banana bar with toasted coconut.

This was a pretty fussy recipe (you can find it here), but the end result is pretty tasty, if a bit dense. The chocolate layer is THICK and softens more slowly than the creamy banana layer, which makes it rather difficult to eat. But the peanuts and toasted coconut on top provide the overall effect of a frozen Snickers bar (with higher quality ingredients, of course). I haven’t eaten very much of it (I cut it into slabs and froze them) because that chocolate layer is a bit much, but I think this would make for a lovely finish to a summer barbecue, or just to add a little sweetness at the end of a difficult day.