–tomorrow is our permanent address
 and there they’ll scarcely find us (if they do,
we’ll move away still further:  into now
-E.E. Cummings (“84”)

Moving, there’s no doubt, is an ugly business. Ever so slowly, the life that you carefully built is dismantled: book by book, dish by dish, sock by hole-in-the-toe sock. There’s a sadness to it all, as well as a deep feeling of anxiety. You don’t know how you’re going to manage everything, you don’t know why you keep trekking into San Francisco and sitting in an office all day, you start to think that crackers and hummus could be called dinner. You notice how expenses pile up–and quickly. When you call the water company in your soon-to-be state of residence, you’re informed that there’s a surprisingly large security deposit–one that, sure, won’t break the bank, but that seems rather high for something that is a basic human need. You also learn, much to your disappointment, that the Delmarva name you’ve been hearing so much of lately isn’t really a cute way of making Delaware seem marvelous (to my credit, the state’s motto is “small wonder,” so it was only too easy to make this logical leap); Delmarva instead refers to the state’s geographical location on the Delaware-Maryland-Virginia peninsula (in short, much less exciting). You also discover strange things about yourself as you call these various offices. For example, when you’re asked to spell your last name, you stumble on certain letters. My own undoing came with O and K; I don’t know what was wrong with my brain–they say that worry can lead to forgetfulness–but I was at such a loss that all that embarrassingly came to mind was “O for oxygen” and “K, uh, K as in…KitKat?” Fortunately, my lack of knowledge of the military spelling standard aside (Oscar and kilo), I am now a person with utilities.

But before we celebrate too much, I should add that I am also a person with a landlord–about to be former–who is currently a huge thorn in my side. This man, for some reason unbeknownst to anything existing in the realm of good sense, decided to come into the apartment while we were on the east coast “to do some work.” This work was supposed to involve changing light bulbs and caulking the sink and bathtub; when we we returned, however, we discovered that he had decided to go to town by scraping paint from the ceiling and spray painting in the kitchen, although there were clean dishes out, as well as a food processor and a cast iron skillet in the painting line of fire. I never thought I’d see the day that I’d use Goo Gone on quality kitchen appliances, but it was either that or potentially ingest old lead-based paint. As soon as we overcame this unforeseen obstacle (and unnecessary waste of time cleaning up his mess), the parade of people interested in our soon-to-be extremely overpriced apartment began traipsing through. One lady has even come back three times. Because of all this, for the past week I have felt like a displaced bull, exposed to the prying eyes of strangers. This place, so long a home that I loved, now feels like a holding zone, a limbo from which I will be only too happy to escape.

This is how it happens, I suppose, that process of settling somewhere else; this is the moment when sentimentalism disappears and you’re ready to jump in the van–windows down, wind whipping through your hair–and not look back.
Or maaaaybe that’s how you feel. You’re really not sure yet. You remember this place, how you loved it when you first saw it, so much that you couldn’t see its flaws, and all the possible futures you imagined for yourself in it. You think of that horrible moment when you and your partner arrived here one night to drop off some things before officially moving in, and, as you opened the door, you ran smack into paramedics carrying out a body on a stretcher (you remind both yourself and the people reading this that, despite sounding positively Gogolian or Dostoevskian, this actually happened). You remember looking at your partner and wondering if this meant the whole endeavor–you, him, this apartment–was somehow doomed. You recall the petty arguments that would eventually give way to laughter, the first six months with a crazy, stubborn beagle and all the nights you would curl up on the couch with the crisp spring light streaming through the windows and feel nothing but contentment. Most importantly, you remember the little moments: friends coming over to share a meal or a slice of cake, nights with board games and cocktails, the realization, deep down, that much of this existence in the Berkeley bubble was transient and that you had to savor it all while it lasted.

And when I think savor, I automatically think waffles. In this home, we have enjoyed many–yeasted buckwheat, buttermilk, toasted coconut–but it was only thanks to the move that I rediscovered the February 2014 issue of Bon Appetit, with its feature on the Iowa-born (and Brooklyn-bearded) Mast Brothers and their many chocolate creations: Glazed Chocolate-Creme Fraiche Cookies, Chocolate-on-Chocolate Tart with Maple Almonds and, last but not least, Dark Chocolate Waffles. All sounded like chocolate-flavored dreams, but it was the waffles that spoke to me. But it was only once I started making them that I realized how utterly fussy the recipe was. Keep in mind that there’s nothing complicated about the technique or the ingredients; it’s simply not every day that I get up in the morning and, before having even a single drop of coffee, make wells in the center of dry ingredients or whisk egg whites until soft peaks form, folding them into the batter in two batches. I may have balked a little at some of the instructions, but both the batter, a testament to the beauty of various shades of brown, and the final product, rich waffles with a crisp exterior and tender center with pockets of melted dark chocolate in every bite, were well worth my time in the kitchen. So well worth it, I’d happily do it all over again. In fact, I plan on doing exactly this once we come up for air on the other side of the country and get settled into our new routine–finally reunited with our favorite sunbathing beast.

 

Dark Chocolate Waffles

Adaped slightly from Bon Appetit
Yields about 12-16 waffles

The yield you get from this recipe will depend on your waffle maker, but suffice it to say that, unless you’re making this for a crowd, you’re going to have plenty of leftovers. The good news is that these waffles freeze beautifully.
I always keep spelt flour on hand and often like to substitute it for at least half of the all-purpose flour a recipe calls for (the ratio is 1:1; 1/4 cup of each is listed as 30 grams); with these waffles, however, I opted to use more all-purpose (200 grams all-purpose and 40 grams spelt; if not using a kitchen scale, I would suggest 1 3/4 cup all-purpose and 1/4 cup spelt) and I’m glad I did. The reason: all-purpose flour results in a crisper texture, which is what you want when making waffles (the olive oil the Mast Brothers call for also aids in the cause of crispness). I also opted to use turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw) instead of brown sugar, but you can use either. I cut back the amount of chocolate in the recipe to 5 oz. bittersweet chocolate (I used 60% instead of the recommended 70%) instead of 6 and for no other reason than that this was all I had left. It meant my waffles weren’t as dark and decadent looking as those of the Mast Brothers, but they still tasted of plenty of chocolate.

200 grams all-purpose flour (see above note if using volume measurements)
40 grams spelt flour (see above note if using volume measurements)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs, separated
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60%-70%), roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 250 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk flours, cocoa powder, turbinado sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Pour into the well and, using a fork, gradually incorporate the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.

Using a mixer, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Fold in half the egg whites into the batter, then add the other half and keep folding until fully incorporated. Fold in the chocolate.

Heat a waffle iron and, once hot, add batter to the waffle maker (about 1/2 cup batter per one batch) and cook until the outside of the waffles has become crisp and they are cooked through. Transfer the cooked waffles to the parchment-lined baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm. Repeat until the batter is gone.

Serve the waffles with butter and maple syrup. If desired, add fresh berries or slices of a ripe banana.
Freeze or refrigerator any leftovers, wrapping them in wax paper and storing them in a freezer-proof ziplock bag.

5 thoughts on “The Business of Moving

  1. Right there right now with you. The utility fixed fees for connection are EXORBITANT and criminal if you ask me. I'm sure they're a mighty big deal for many people. We're now 2 months in, and still have boxes. It gets worse before it gets better… It's just like you describe: nostalgia, displacement, frustration, exasperation, costs costs costs, mistakes, boxes and more boxes and still boxes. I miss the friends and the university bubble, but not the stress. Summer is glorious! Hope your settling in goes well! Godspeed!

  2. What a beautifully written, poignant post. The capture of your time in Berkeley is lovely, just as you hit the nail on the head about the business of moving.

    And these crisp chocolate waffles sound like a dream come true! I'm excited for your next chapter and for the day when you are settled enough to be able to make these again and enjoy them in well-settled, peaceful surroundings.

  3. Hi Leah,

    Thanks so much for your comment and for your commiseration! It's crazy to think what an endeavor this whole process is; it really makes you think about worldly possessions and whether they're actually worth it (when hanging and sitting in cupboards and on shelves nicely, absolutely, but when about to be transported, I have my doubts!)…

    I do wonder what it will be like on the other side; I remember how quickly we settled into this place, but not only was I younger then (ha!), but we also had fewer belongings and less space to fill. Worries aside, here's to the hope of being settled in eventually (sooner rather than later, for sure!)!

    I hope you continue to feel more at home and that those boxes disappear quickly! 🙂

  4. Hello, Moriah, and thank you! There are so many feelings right now: love, desperation, fatigue…it's overwhelming, but ultimately one of those experiences in life that people have to go through. The other side usually ends up being okay in the end, especially when there is the promise of chocolate waffles, cake, pawpaws (this seems to be a thing in Delaware; I'm very intrigued!), beaches and who knows what else?

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