The thing about comparisons is they aren’t really fair. Whether you’re talking about people or books or the way friends respond on Twitter, by holding two things next to each other, you can easily stack the deck against something perfectly good with something you deem so much better. And it can be hard sometimes to see how much preference and taste plays into what we see as good or beautiful or even, delicious, when holding X against Y.
Like, take these two cakes. They’re both chocolate, they’re both from this last weekend, they’re both adequate desserts and cures for a sweet tooth. But if you’re like me, you won’t be able to stop yourself from thinking of them as a pair, especially since I made them one day after another, and then deeming one so much better than the other.
Well, I hope I’m not jinxing things by saying so, but that last post seems to have worked: it’s looking and feeling more like spring every day! Today I drove with the windows down! Tonight as I’m typing, the birds are chirping! I’ve been hearing about Passover seders on Twitter and from friends, Easter is on Sunday, it’s practically April, after all! So in the spirit of welcoming (i.e., wishing, hoping, begging, pleading) for this new season that has. to. come. eventually, it’s time for a little spring cleaning. These are things I’ve been meaning to tell you, wanting to tell you or just plain am going to tell you. Settle in for a long post, cause that’s what we’ve got (with lots of pictures!).
Well, in case you haven’t already heard, it snowed here in Chicagoland last weekend. The snow itself wasn’t a big deal, just a light dusting on all the trees and cars and buildings, but the fact that it came, right after a week of warmth and sunshine and 60-degree evenings where I rode my bike like I was 12 years old again, was a grim reminder that no matter how late the sun stays out, no matter how many times I don’t need a jacket, no matter what the calendar says, it’s still not exactly spring yet. It still can snow.
Now, fellow Chicagoans, I know, I know what you’re going to say: Hello? This happens every year! It’s only March! Last year, it snowed in April! I know.
But listen, it’s still kind of a bummer. It’s like when you apply for that job you really want, the one close to home and with great benefits, and just when you’ve had your third interview and thought you’d gone and aced it, you get a rejection letter. Or when you’re ten years old, watching the snow outside, thinking for sure you’ll get a snow day, and you don’t. Or when you bake bread for the eighth or ninth time, all hopeful and expectant, and you end up with weird ribbons inside the loaves that you’d thought were perfection. Dashed dreams make the heart sick.
Of course some people would say there’s an easy solution to this problem, one that’s pretty simple: lower your expectations. Wish for less, and you won’t be hurt as often. There’s truth in that. And I guess it makes sense.
Do you ever go grocery shopping on Sunday afternoons? It’s not pretty.
Two days ago, I was weaving in and out of aisles at Whole Foods, repeatedly cornered or trapped by someone’s cart or, worse, by those two dark-haired women who stood in front of the entire yogurt section, chatting with sour faces that never once looked my way, for the solid five minutes that they’d commandeered the dairy case, and by the time I’d finally made it past them and to the baking aisle, my mindset was reduced to pure self-preservation: Flour. The only other thing I needed was flour.
There were people on my right and people on my left, with one couple edging towards me quickly. I scanned the shelves. No whole wheat pastry flour, but white whole wheat flour! That’s similar, right? I grabbed a bag. While I waited in line with it at the checkout, a surly balding man cut in front of me, pretending not to see me or my shopping cart that were inches away from him, and would you believe it, I let him.
That grocery store broke me, I tell you.
Turns out, though, that the experience wasn’t entirely bad. Because white whole wheat flour? It’s different from whole wheat pastry flour in that it has more protein (13% compared to pastry’s 9%) and comes from a different flour (hard white spring wheat rather than soft white winter wheat) but has specific strengths: It offers all the fiber and nutrition of traditional whole wheat, for example, but with milder flavor and lighter color. It has a finer grind than regular whole wheat flour. It makes a good substitute for white all-purpose flour. It’s said to be great in breads, cookies, bars, etc.
Also, it makes a great pancake.