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A friend recently asked me, “What would God say?”  I was prepared to listen to his troubles, ready to commiserate and sympathize, taking care to leave my faith out of the conversation out of respect for his beliefs.  Because I figured the last thing a dejected friend needs is someone to preach at him.  So I was taken aback to have this question thrown at me.  I’m definitely not the fastest thinker and neither can I articulate very well in awkward situations.  All I could muster up was: “He would say, trust me.”

After stewing over this for a good couple of days, there’s nothing I would change about my answer.  It’s generic and cliche, utterly dissatisfying, I know.  But truth is, if we were looking to God for an answer to right all the wrongs in our lives, then I think we would be sorely disappointed.  He would never tell you what you have to do to get ahead in your career.  Or how to repair your relationships with your family and friends.  Whether you should make that decision or turn another direction.  He would leave those choices up to you.  But he would ask you to find him first.

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Maybe “trust me” isn’t what you want to hear when you’re down in the dumps, but maybe it’s exactly what you need.  We all pray when we feel helpless in our circumstances.  If you listen to those prayers, they’re all about getting into that particular school, getting that girl, getting that promotion, getting the perfect house; because we think that if we get all these things, then we won’t have to ask for anything more.  But there’s always another thing after that hurdle.  When we do get into that school, get that girl, or get that promotion, we rejoice: “Hallelujah! Our prayers were answered!”

But what do we do when things don’t turn out the way we want them to?  Are we prepared to say, that even though we have no clue how things can be solved, and even if he does not answer our prayers the way we want him to, and despite our confusion and despair, we will still trust that what he does is exactly what we need.  So the only thing that we ask for, above everything else, is that he stand by us for whatever comes.

If I can say this prayer genuinely, then I think everything else won’t be so difficult.  Oh, it’ll still be hard.  But at least now, I have peace.

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So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:31-34

Maybe the best thing you can do for yourself, is to stop trying so hard to solve everything.

White Balsamic Custard Tart from Bon Appétit

I think the most precious thing about faith is that you are choosing to believe in God in spite of your doubts.  And this is what some people will call foolhardy and stupid.  But I believe it is the most beautiful and sincere gesture that we can make.  That despite our uncertainty and limits of our understanding of who He is, especially in the face of logic and reason, we are coming to Him with all our stakes, realizing that we have so much to lose in something that seems so small and intangible as faith.

                     

      

I have stopped blogging the past month because I’m trying to finish my personal statement for graduate school.  I told myself I wouldn’t touch the oven until it’s done.  But I wanted to post these pictures of blueberry muffins that I had made a few weeks back.  

Churros were the very first pastry-related food that I remember making on my own.  If you could even call them that.  They were more like one inch long pieces of formless, half-cooked dough covered with sugar and cinnamon.  Despite their grotesque appearance, I brought them to school to for a class potluck.  Of course, nobody touched them, despite my efforts to convince my classmates that they were edible.  Apparently, this is how my best friend from high school remembers first meeting me—waving finger-like churros into the air.

My next baking project was a big batch of oatmeal raisin cookies for my high school boyfriend’s birthday.  These I made with painstaking patience with my toaster oven (because my mom refused to let me use the big kitchen one).  They were literally rock hard.  They tasted almost as if a bunch of raw oats melted together to form dry, dense saucers.  They were so hard and scratchy that your gums and the roof of your mouth were tender if you tried to chew too many of them.  Not to mention the small pockets of salt left unmixed and trapped in various parts of the batch that made for some unexpected surprises for your taste buds.  My boyfriend loved them.

Recently, someone asked me if I ever have any baking misadventures.  All the time.  In fact, the things I actually post up are the exceptions.  And even then, my successes are never what they should have looked like.  I would post up my failures, but that would just depress me.  As I type this, I am still trying to recover from the disappointment of the day.  After spending two hours, five eggs, and a bunch of expensive blackberries, I ended up with a lopsided sponge cake that was inexplicably tough and chewy.  At least the mousse layer was tasty.

Every baking project is a crapshoot.  I can follow the most simple recipe and still end up tossing it into the trash.  I have yet to recognize when batter is overmixed or undermixed.  Or when cookies are underbaked or overbaked.  And it isn’t until a month ago that I realized what “whip to stiff peaks” meant.  It still confounds me that the order in which you mix the dry and wet ingredients together actually makes a huge difference in the outcome.

But there has been a lot of things I’ve learned since my churros and oatmeal cookie nightmares.  I know to cut cold butter into cubes when making scones to ensure a flaky texture.  I know to use a double boiler when making custard or melting chocolate.  I now know only to whip heavy cream instead of light cream—even though it’s tempting to be more health conscious—because that 10% difference in fat content is what will save you from a sore wrist.  And always add a bit of vodka into your homemade ice-cream to prevent overhardening.

I can’t help but jam a science bit in here, because if you don’t know already, science is a crapshoot.  Especially true since I spent the last month working on the same procedure—mainly, cloning woes.  I also realize that I had complained about the same thing in another post half a year ago.  Yes, progress is slow in the lab.  But victory is Oh so sweet.  I have been trying to transform and grow bacteria on petri dishes, following a no-brainer, four step protocol.  After more than two dozen attempts, I finally figured what was wrong.  I’ve been using the wrong cells.

Now that I’ve emerged into the light of triumph, I am a cloning pro.  I know the tricks.  I know how to backtrack.  I know how to double check.  Basically, I’m invincible.

These cinnamon buns were a semi-success.  Not exactly lookers, I admit.  There was some trouble with rolling the dough over the blueberries, and I couldn’t cut smaller pieces for fear of unraveling the whole log.  But I bet if I made the same buns everyday for a month, I would be a pro in no time.  See how baking and science is similar?

And definitely, I will make these again.  The best part about this recipe is the process of making it.  I love how sugar, flour, butter, and milk come together in one cohesive bundle imbued with the subtle fragrance of fermentation.  It’s still mindblowing (to me, at least) that microorganisms with dimensions on the order of microns can produce enough carbon dioxide to inflate the dough to twice its size.

I fully expected to wear my arms down trying to knead the bread, but I was almost sad when I finished.  The dough had the consistency of putty, springy and elastic, and a pleasure to squeeze my fingers through.  And the warm smell of cinnamon, sugar, and dough from the oven makes for the most relaxing Saturday morning ever in the kitchen.  They tasted as good as they smelled.  Light and fluffy, tangy and sweet.  If I could, I would eat a fresh, hot bun every morning for breakfast.

Blueberry Cinnamon Buns from Annie’s Eats

I have the worst memory for books.  I inhale them, like a long drawn out breath where for a single glorious moment, my head becomes giddy with characters come to life, shining in a vibrant, imaginary world that abruptly fades away as soon as the last page is turned.  Ask me about any book I read more than a month ago and I would find it hard to tell you what happened.  All that would be left is a memory of how the story made me feel and a vague idea of the basic plot line.  Any references to specific events that transpired would be lost on me.  Apparently, this is how I am with movies as well, much to the dismay of my boyfriend who is a movie fanatic and enjoys quoting obscure lines that I never get. 

                  

I like reading books that are beautifully written so that each sentence seems to flow and wind, gracefully and flawlessly into the next one.  Phrases that catch me off guard and echo in my head, and which I can almost feel the words roll, ever so smoothly, over my tongue.  But while I am picky about writing style, I tend to fly over the pages in my impatience to know what happens.  And this is why I think most of the books I read never stick. 

                   

In an effort to retain what I read, I signed up for a book club that meets monthly in Cambridge.  This week I sat in on a discussion of “Little Bee,” by Chris Cleave.  Funny, I actually liked the book before I walked into the meeting.  I thought it was a “charming” story about an African refugee’s search for peace and a sense of belonging (which sounds incredibly cliche, I know).  However, most of the people at the meeting thought it was superficial, unrealistic, and choppy near the end.  It’s true, I agree.  It’s a book that handles a heavy subject with a touch of lightness that borders on fluff.  But I think that’s how the author intended for it to be; and that’s why I like it.  Above all else, the most attractive quality of the book was the imagery in the parts where the main character recounts her memories of her homeland.   I think that’s what really sold it for me. 

                   

Speaking of beautiful imagery, I love the Adobe Photoshop that my boyfriend bought me for our one year anniversary!  Granted, I don’t really know how to use the program yet, but so far it’s made my pictures look so much better.  Maybe someday I’ll find the confidence to post them on foodgawker. 

Kiwi Blueberry Cream Cheese Tart from The Other Side

(I used strawberry jam instead of apricot)