I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.
~Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
On the first of each month,
a guest writer
how he or she spends the day.
November 1, 2020: Kathy Gunst
The secret to making it through these last days that seem interminable… Rage Baking! Run to your closest independent bookstore for Kathy Gunst’s newest cookbook written along with chef Katherine Alford. You may already know Kathy from NPR’s Here & Now, where she is the award-winning Resident Chef. I read Rage Baking hungrily from cover to cover, wishing I baked.
Many women contributed to this wonderful book that is part recipes, part essays, and part gorgeous photos and where each recipe has a story to tell. “As you read through the essays you will get a glimpse into the way women use the kitchen as a place of refuge, healing, love, anger, sadness, and activism.” In the introduction, Kathy writes,
What the baking did was reset my focus for a few short hours. It became a balm, a meditation of sorts. Baking was a way of temporarily restoring my belief in the positive transformation of things–in this case, butter, flour, sugar, and fruit. Each day, as the political outrages piled up, my mind was absorbed in the precision and focus and discipline that baking requires.
Bianca Borge contributed her recipe for “Bloody Butcher Cornbread,” writing, “‘Bloody Butcher’ is a darn good metaphor for all sorts of things, whatever floats your raging boat. It refers to the name of an heirloom dent corn variety with deep red kernels, an American soil crop since the 1800s. When ground into cornmeal, the color is a subtle purplish red, and the taste is deeply nutty and earthy.”
Tess Rafferty writes, “The nice thing about baking is that you can actually see the results. You have a tangible product for your efforts, one that tastes delicious and fulfills our most basic needs: sustenance. And we all need something to sustain us right now.”
Elizabeth Falkner shared her recipe for “Power Muffs,” writing, “These muff(in)s are so packed with antioxidants and good-for-you nuts and seeds that you’ll feel your superwoman powers with a vengeance… Many of the things I cook and bake are meant to fight the powers that be.”
There’s Kathy’s Pineapple Upside-Down Spice Cake (The world is upside down and inside out and sometimes we just need a new way of looking at things), her Mango-Lime-Orange Curd in Meringue Nests (or Don’t Tell Me What to Do With My Eggs), and her Maine Blueberry Supreme Court Crumble…
Finally, a few of my favorite cooking tips:
- If your cookies are are browning too quickly on the bottom, slip another pan underneath to insulate.
- Don’t try to frost a warm cake; the frosting will soften and droop and you will be sad.
- And the big baking secret: Confidence is your most important ingredient.
Kathy is a James Beard award-winning journalist and the author of fifteen cookbooks. She writes for the Washington Post, Eating Well, Wall Street Journal, Yankee Magazine, the New York Times, Food & Wine, and others. She also teaches food journalism and cooking. She lives in Maine, and we met in Provincetown back in 2006 while we were taking a writing course at the Fine Arts Work Center with Pam Houston (who contributed an essay to Rage Baking).
Stay well and…
Come back on NOVEMBER 1st to read how KATHY GUNST spends her days.