Sunday, January 8, 2012

Practicing

In an effort to cheer me up after a discouraging day, my mom once told me a story about Jun Kaneko, a ceramics artist born in Japan who makes gorgeous, gigantic sculptures out of his studio in Omaha, Nebraska. Mom said that as a student new to the U.S. in the early '60s, Mr. Kaneko had spent the night after his first class working on an assignment to make dozens and dozens of ceramic pieces — not realizing that the number of pieces he was attempting to finish was the total number required for the semester, not for the next day of class. He finished all the work for the entire term that night, then continued to work just as hard until classes were over. Mr. Kaneko is now one of the world's most respected ceramics artists, with public commissions in the U.S. and Japan, and shows around the globe. The lesson, mom told me, is that doing something well often has nothing to do with sparkling, instantaneous talent. It has to do with constant, consistent effort, plugging away at your intended goal over and over. 
I've been trying to remind myself of that as I've thought about and worked on my thesis project. On Friday night, I needed a break, and decided to do something easier for a while: a quick and simple gluten-free muffin recipe I'd spotted on the back of my package of Bob's Red Mill rice flour. Attempt Number One: not so good. My first batch was bland and weird, with too little batter per muffin, which each had the density of a hockey puck.
Attempt Number Two: much better! I doubled the recipe, added more sugar and ground almonds, and changed the flavoring to lemon poppy seed, with the added zing of lemon zest. It's remarkable how much better you can get with the second try. Keep that in mind, self. 
So now it's Sunday night. Rus has gone off to a rehearsal, the apartment is silent, and there's still enough of the day left to take another crack at writing. Onward! I hope everybody had a good weekend and is looking forward to the week ahead. 
Gluten- and dairy-free lemon poppy seed muffins
2 cups rice flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons  ground almonds
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
Zest of one lemon
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons water
2 eggs
1 teaspoon lemon extract
4 tablespoons oil (Any higher-heat oil will do. If you don't mind dairy, you could use butter.)

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Grease or paper a 12-muffin tin.
3. Whisk together dry ingredients, make a well in the center.
4. Add wet ingredients. Mix well.
5. Pour batter into tin. Bake 20 minutes.

In other news, my friend Leigh wrote a book! A real life book! It's excellent. If you're in need of a good story, rush out and get it. And...
...this granola recipe is tasty. I added cinnamon, dried dates, dried apricots and dried cherries. And an aspirational graffito appeared in the neighborhood overnight.

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