The biggest hurdle I’ve had to face with this full-time job thing (aside from the reduction in my personal writing time) is the daily commute. Back in the day when I was working elsewhere, I lived close enough to my office to at least have the option of hoofing it in the morning or evening, or both. A brisk walk is such a great way to ease into the work day or shake it off after a long one. Well, my new gig is a hike and not a particularly scenic one. So, I’ve been a slave to the C train for five months and if you’re familiar with the Straphangers’ Report, it’s one of the lowest rated on the subway system. Meaning, it’s not the cleanest or the most reliable. But that’s not really the thing that’s getting to me. It’s the people.
Under the best of circumstances, I don’t really enjoy crowds of strangers. Add the specific insult to the senses you get when you’re on a subway car packed with people whose idea of hygiene varies from unwashed to grooming themselves in public and you have yourself an unpleasant situation. We’ve all seen women attempting to apply mascara in their rear view mirror when they’re driving to work and are stopped at a red light. Not the safest of ideas but at least they aren’t moving. What about spackling yourself with a full face of make-up – foundation, concealer, blush, eyeliner, eye shadow, lip liner, lipstick and face powder – while on a train that’s flying 60 miles an hour? Well, if the look you’re after is Baby Jane meets Divine, then this method of “putting on your face” will work for you!
|Bette Davis as Baby Jane Hudson|
|Yup, I took a photo of the nail clipper|
I often feel this way, like I am some kind of public nuisance hall monitor. Some of you may remember that when Bobby Brady was given the coveted H.M. position at Fillmore Junior High, he lost most of his friends by being so uptight. I don’t want to be that person! But then I’m confronted by such heinous acts I’m incapable of ignoring them. Like a few weeks ago in Penn Station.
I was using the ladies room before taking the train out of town for the weekend. Okay, you might be surprised that I actually enter the bathroom at Penn but honestly, it’s not that bad and it’s like Buckingham Palace (or what I’d assume a palace loo would be like) compared to the facilities on the LIRR itself. Anyway, as I was washing my hands I saw something truly shocking happening at the sink next to me. A perfectly normal looking thirtysomething woman in a sleeveless shift dress had her left arm up in the air, as if she was waiting for the teacher to call on her, and in her right hand was a pink disposable Daisy razor. Yes friends, she was shaving her underarms over the sink! I was so appalled my mouth literally fell open and I gasped audibly. But did Miss Armpit flinch? No. (Actually, that would’ve been dangerous since she was holding a sharp).
But my point is that all of these affronts provoked reactions in me that far exceeded their importance. As I said, everyone else seemed to be going about their business. Now, maybe that’s because they are as uncivilized as these untamed women, or maybe it’s because they have such busy lives they don’t have the time to pay attention to anything else. Or, maybe they have an inner calm that allows them to breathe through the unpleasantness that surrounds them and move on. I do not have an inner or an outer calm, which is why I have always sought serenity through the measuring, mixing and baking of a sweet treat. I mean, there’s a reason what you are reading is called In Sweet Treatment. And there is a reason I have felt off-kilter for weeks: I haven’t been baking!
So here I am, back where I started. As soon as I realized the true source of my irritable, hall-monitoriness, I knew I was on the path towards salvation. And luckily for me, I had recently torn out the below recipe from Bon Appetit. Jim Lahey, of no-knead bread making fame, offered up this twist on a Toll House cookie which I was instantly curious to try. For those of you who know the recipe on the back of the Nestle’s chocolate chips bag by heart, you will note a striking difference here. There is way more brown sugar than white and he uses baking powder and not soda. What was going to happen? I had to find out.
Basically what you get is a cookie that puffs up while it bakes (left) and then sinks upon cooling (right) to become a crispy around the outside, chewy in the middle, bite of buttery, toffee-flavored deliciousness. I urge you to give it a go. It couldn’t be easier to make and there really is a difference in flavor, all for the butter, I mean better. And even more importantly, the act of baking them brought me back from the edge where I was teetering very close to vigilante justice. So the next time you don’t hear from me for awhile, check Riker’s Island. Or remind me to put on my apron.
from Bon Appetit, March 2012
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1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 425°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and both sugars in a large bowl until well combined, 2–3 minutes.
Add egg and vanilla; beat on medium-high speed until mixture is light and fluffy, 2–3 minutes.
Add dry ingredients, reduce speed to low, and mix just to blend. Fold in chocolate chips.
Spoon heaping tablespoonfuls of dough onto prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 1/2" apart.
Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until edges are golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and let cool.
Yield: 30 cookies