Striving to find contentment.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ennui, Georgia, bread, and short ribs

When people find out that I'm not working right now, I generally get one of two responses. Either they exclaim "having time off must be great!", or they look at me skeptically and ask "so.... what do you DO?". And while that probably says a lot about Americans and our attitudes towards working, that's not where I'm going with this today. The thing is, not going to work every day is fantastic and awesome - and terrible and boring. As frustrating and soul sucking doing something I hated was, it also got me out of the house, gave me people to interact with, and provided some differences from day to day. In the house, time can stretch out, unchanging, for days. Job hunting is dull. No way around it. It is monotonous, it is boring, and it feels like you're getting absolutely nowhere (because you aren't). Add to that the fact that it is the dead of winter in Connecticut - and therefore a frozen wasteland outside - and you start to feel some extreme cabin fever.

So I went to Georgia to visit my parents. They are through and through Northeasterners who decided, upon retirement, to head south to a retirement community. And they have never been happier. They have friends and activities, and seem to fill their days with a mixture of relaxation and social events. Needless to say, I was extremely jealous. How I would love to have a community like that. Why do we wait until we're retired to fill our time with things we like doing? It was hard to come back up here and return to the solitude and isolation. Usually when I return home from a vacation, no matter how great it was, I feel at least some relief to be back. Not this time. This time I just felt down and tired.

A challenge was needed. Something to make me feel accomplished. Bread. But that almost seemed too risky, and in my state I wanted something I knew with some hard work would come out great. A little research and I had leads on two fronts: the no-knead bread published in the New York Times a while ago, which apparently everyone in NYC made and which is reportedly the most foolproof bread ever invented, and braised short ribs. Many, many people have posted about this bread, so another story isn't really needed, but let me just say this: make this bread. It is incredibly, almost alarmingly, easy. It came out of the oven looking like I had bought it from a fancy bakery, and it tasted wonderful. Just the sort of confidence boost I needed.

Short ribs were a safer choice, but I had been wanting to try my hand at them for ages. It is nearly impossible for beef braised in red wine and spices until it is so tender it falls apart into shreds at the lightest touch of your fork to be bad, and after a three hour braise in the oven these did not disappoint. And they made the house smell AMAZING. I think my husband thought he had died and gone to heaven when he walked in the door.

I still feel a bit lost, and bored, and isolated. Bread making success isn't going to solve that. But it did give me something to feel proud of, at least for a little bit.

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