It’s been a tough week, but a worthwhile one. Sometimes you just have to take yourself in hand, ask what’s working and not working and try to go about fixing it. The key word in that sentence is most definitely “try” because, really, that’s often half the battle. You see, a lot of the time, I look for reasons to avoid real work (i.e. writing) while still being a busy, productive and functional member of both my community and society as a whole. It’s not a bad way to live either, considering that, for the most part, you still get to feel good about yourself and all in the process of avoiding the truly odious tasks….But eventually that stops working, you stop feeling so great about yourself and you’ve just got to get down to business and figure things out. I hit that stage this week. To be sure, it’s kind of a low moment, but, if you use it wisely, it’s ultimately the catalyst that anybody with a murky, undefined deadline needs.
The way I see things is that, while we’re often incredibly nice to others, full of compassion, inspiration and well-wishes, we’re often our own worst enemy, self-sabotaging at almost every turn and fulfilling our worst fears about ourselves. It is, however, possible to turn these things around. A long time ago, I stopped eating candy bars. I learned to cook instead of relying on pre-packaged food. I went to yoga and it hurt so badly that I could barely move the next day, but, oddly enough, I enjoy it and keep going back…even though I’m sure I’m not all that good at yoga (if one can even say such a thing about a meditative “sport”). I bought a bike and actually use it, although I hate biking up hills….So, it was time to ask myself what was so different about this from all these other things? It quickly became apparent that what was really at stake here was a matter of self-discipline–knowing that I’m just going to have to suck it up and deal. After all, when you want something, you find a way to make it work.
I’m on day three of my new “rise and shine at 7:30 a.m., write for three hours in the morning and, depending on the need to go to campus or not, maybe even more in the afternoon” plan. And I have to say: it feels good. It’s actually kind of fun; it’s fascinating to watch something take shape before your eyes and to know that, at the end of the day, this is all yours. Maybe it could be written better, maybe some of the ideas are poorly conceived, but it’s yours and it couldn’t be, at this moment in time, any other way. To show you the happy proof of my new situation, I offer a picture of my crazy work space at the kitchen table, where I like to joke that the “genius” happens. I keep the food magazines around for the moments when I know I need a break because I want to throw heavy Russian novels against the wall, which clearly none of my neighbors would appreciate.
Perhaps this is a naive thought, but I do believe that we’re all just doing the best that we can. Sometimes the best of us manifests itself in a few pages written, other days it may look like a scrumptiously gooey and moist lemon cake with not one, but two kinds of lemony glaze. Even better, some days it can look like both.
Slightly adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa at Home
Yields at least 10-12 slices, depending on how they’re cut
For the cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup 2% Greek Yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
3 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
-Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
-Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl.
– In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla.
-Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
-With a rubber spatula, fold the canola oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated.
-Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50-55 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
-Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.
-When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
-Then, carefully place it on a baking rack over a sheet pan.
-While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.
-For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake.
-Prepare yourselves for greatness!