Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Change, Growth, and Skillet Cornbread

It seems like the transformation occurred overnight. Along with my feeling better from that two-week flu, I’ve seen a complete change in my perspective. I feel like a new person, a new Morri who is taking life into her own hands, and daring to fly. 

Change has always been a scary thing for me, and for a while I avoided any form of it that would bring positive growth simply because I was afraid to fail. I was living quietly, for I didn’t wish to cause ripples, and I didn’t wish to disappoint. I felt I was and was not living to others expectations at the same time, and I suffered as a result. I was waking up at 4:30 a.m. on five to six hours of sleep, restless and tired of the constant chatter in my head. I had no desire to blog or go out with people, even though I have had plenty of time to do both, and became absorbed with Sherlock Holmes. There was a loss of connection with the world around me, stagnation in my relationships with the people who mattered most, and insecure with how I fit into it all.

After my various heart-to-hearts with the boyfriend, Mama Dazz, and myself intrapersonally, I realize I have been doing an injustice to myself. At one point this weekend, I remember the chatter being particularly critical and unpleasant, and in the darkness of my bedroom I realized just how unproductive it really was. Instead of griping about things I could indeed fix, that energy could be used to do something about it. It was my first of many “Well, duh!” moments these past few days, but it altered a lot of my thinking in the right direction. 

And yet here I was, treating my own self as the enemy, as someone who couldn’t be trusted. If I wouldn’t dream of treating others like that, being overly critical and judgmental with how they live their lives, why the hell am I doing it… to myself?  This question lifted my post-graduation funk, just as the New Year shows itself to be an enlightening one.
My other enlightenment takes the form of a new philosophy: when there is something to do, do something; when there is nothing to do, do nothing. I’ve found that the reason behind a person’s boredom and restlessness is that you’re doing nothing when you should be doing something. Mental exhaustion and physical strain, on the other hand, is the result of doing something other than doing nothing. When it comes time to doing nothing, you shouldn’t be thinking of the things you would have to do later. Doing nothing can be anything that relaxes you or brings you peace, so as long as you don’t tire yourself out with them. I dare you to try it out, because you will never be bored and/or exhausted again. Better yet, you will feel like an entirely new person.

This new attitude has given me a new confidence, a new fitness regimen, and I am actually getting things done. My room is getting cleaner by the day, and the house is setting itself back into order. I ran this morning, all bundled up in an early January rain, and I feel so free of all the static and prattle that once plagued me. I’m still getting up earlier than I would prefer at 5:45 a.m., but I’m sleeping an hour more than I had been recently. Much of it has to do with a firmer pillow, but I like to think it has more to do with my new outlook on life than anything.

So, even though I’m working two jobs part-time, and I do have obligations to uphold, I’m not going to live a life of mediocrity anymore or settle for good enough. If I’m going to work and exercise and blog, I’m going to do the best I can. And if I’m going to rest and meditate and love, I’m going to give the time doing nothing deserves. Above all else, the fear of failure and success shows itself in many forms, from cooking to expectations to how high you aim to go.

To quote two people who've inspired me for many years:

 “It is sometimes a mistake to climb; it is always a mistake never even to make the attempt. If you do not climb, you will not fall. This is true. But is it that bad to fail, that hard to fall?” (N. Gaiman, from The Sandman: Fables and Reflections)

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.” (M. Gandhi)

You may be asking, what does this have anything to do with cooking or health? Well, it has everything to do with it. If you only stick to the things you know how to cook and are good at making, you will never learn but you will never fail either. As for change, I’ve learned to treat my body (and thus, life in general) as one big experiment. The food you eat and the life you live is forever changing. It is a push and pull movement, a dance that never ends, sometimes obvious and sometimes not.

I have every intention of succeeding, no matter how it may be defined and no matter how scary it is. It took numerous times of failing to getting cornbread right, but that didn’t keep me from trying.

If I can make a perfect cornbread recipe, I can do anything.

Cornbread is one of those foods that can be finicky at the best of times. The cornbread I remember as kid was out of a box, a Jiffy box if I’m not mistaken. For some reason, my homemade recipes were grainy, dry, and not too appetizing. I tried using various flours with different grain sizes of cornmeal. I tried incorporating applesauce, using milk in place for water, and different kinds of fats. As the Southern states have made cornbread without any other flours for years and years, I was at a loss as to what I was doing wrong. My goal was a dense Southern cornbread in comparison to the cakelike Northern counterpart, with a good crust which only came from a hot skillet, and a final product that held up to stews and sauces.
Masa harina was the answer.

I was successful in making the recipe the two times I made it, the first with buttermilk and the second with lassi (drinking yogurt), though I am sure regular milk will work here also. The recipe I am posting is from the second batch, since the former was accidentally erased (note to self: always write a recipe down on paper). Both were moist and dense, the perfect basic skillet cornbread. I do intend on playing around with additional ingredients and flours, but this is just delicious as is with a slab of butter and a drizzle of honey on top.

For future reference, dear readers, all recipes will be measured in grams from now on in the name of precision, though teaspoons and tablespoons will be listed as they always have been. 

Basic Skillet Cornbread

240 g Masa harina (also called maseca)
2 1/2 tsp. Baking powder
1/2 – 3/4 tsp. Sea salt (if using lassi, put in less salt)
240 ml Water
240 ml Lassi (or buttermilk)
2 Eggs
1 tbsp. (21 g) Honey (15 g was in the first batch)
3 tbsp. Butter

Preheat the oven to 425ºF, and place an 8 – 10” iron skillet in the middle.
Combine the masa harina, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs in with the liquids (including the honey but not the butter), and then pour it onto the dry ingredients.
Blend with a wooden spoon until a wet dough forms (the baking powder will make it rise and give it an airy texture), and let it sit for a few minutes.
Take the skillet out of the preheated oven and melt the butter to coat the bottom and edges of the pan.
Drizzle the remaining butter into the dough to combine, and then pour the dough into the skillet (to evenly distribute the dough and smooth the top, use a medium-sized silicone spatula).
Lightly cover the top of the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes.
After 45 minutes, remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
Take out of the oven and let it sit for a few minutes, though it’s recommended to be served warm.
Serve with butter and honey, or as an island in the middle of a huge bowl of chili or stew.

Makes 8 servings.

No comments:

Post a Comment