Friday, September 2, 2011
Very often I feel inadequate. When I look at the jobs I have to do, they seem like huge mountains to scale and for my Everest assault I'm equipped with only a fork, a paper bag, some dental floss, and I'm wearing shorts, a tank top, and flip flops.
Then I make the mistake of looking to my side. There are herds of other women, sure-footed as mountain goats, decked out in climbing gear from REI, managing to make it look as easy as a walk in the park as they nimbly navigate life's hazards, leaping from rock to rock, ascending at a dizzying pace.
My biggest personal mountains are in the areas of my job (homemaking) and the raising, training, and teaching of my children. I meet amazing women, or read their blogs, and think, "My gosh, where does she find the extra 36 hours per day to be in a book club, do inventive crafts with her children, redecorate her bedroom, learn Italian, run marathons, publish a book, raise all their own food in the garden, play an instrument beautifully, can everything that grows, cook delightful, inventive, and healthful dinners every night, sew her own designer wardrobe, and still keep her home immaculately clean?"
I compare myself to that and I just want to crawl onto the couch with a bowl of pudding, pull a blanket over my head, and give up. I'm not ever going to be that amazing, so why bother trying?
I used to have hope that one day I'd be amazing, that one magical day it would all come together. My house would be spotless, my children would be on track in their schoolwork and would start reading the encyclopedia, just for fun. Since everything at home was under control, I could shed the stained sweat pants, put on a cute outfit, and go out with girlfriends, not dreading the inevitable phone call of "When are you coming home? They're trying to kill each other and if they don't succeed, I'll do it for them!!"
But I've come to the conclusion that's not going to happen. I once had a friend (one of the amazing kind with perfect, mannered, homeschooled children and a spotless home) come over to my house for the first time. In shock she surveyed the debris of toys, socks, books, projects, shoes, dress-ups, and dog hair coating the living room and she said, "You must be really good in bed. My husband would never put up with this!"
So I started a blog. A happy little corner of life where I could feel amazing. But I'll let you in on a secret. Just in case I might have you fooled, I'm still not amazing. Did you ever wonder why almost all of my pictures are close-ups of the food? Yes, partly it's to show the tantalizing texture of the food. But mainly it's because It's a chore to find more than 2 square feet of table or counter that's clear of stuff.
And the food? Some of it is original, but most of it I just copy. I hang onto the coattails of someone who's truly amazing and hope some of it will rub off on me. Like today's recipe. It is amazing and comes from a woman who is also amazing, Janelle. She has a beautiful blog where she chronicles her life and cooking adventures, Talk of Tomatoes. Fabulous photos, wonderful recipes, and lovely writing. Sigh. (Oh, sorry, just comparing myself again.)
I met Janelle at the food blogger's dinner I attended in the spring. We were each to bring something to share and she brought some red pepper jelly. Ohmygosh, it was love at first bite. Spread on a cracker with some chèvre, it was addictively good. My husband, after his third cracker, said, "You have got to get this recipe!"
Janelle, being an amazing person, already had it posted on her blog, making it super easy for me to copy her. And my family loves me for it. I didn't have any chèvre cheese, so I used cream cheese on flatbread crackers. Oh, heavens, it's good! Hot, sweet, salty, creamy, crunchy - it's a sensation overload for the mouth. You barely finish the first cracker before you're reaching for the next.
I put off making this jelly for months, thinking it would be really difficult and time consuming. It's not. It's super easy. In fact, next time I make it (which will be soon), I'm going to make up a big batch. I think jars of this will be my new favorite Christmas present to give!
The next time you want to appear like you have it all together, use a snow shovel to get all the junk out of the living room, vacuum (vacuum tracks are important, they make it look like you clean regularly), and then serve this jelly with cream cheese on crackers. After the first bite, no one will care that you're only faking it.
Spicy Red Pepper Jelly
- from Talk of Tomatoes
makes about 2 small jam jars
1 cup finely chopped (OR quickly pureed) bell red pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 1/3 cup white vinegar
2 tsp calcium water from POMONA PECTIN*
1 1/2 tsp pectin from POMONA PECTIN*
2 1/3 cup white sugar
*(I found Pomona Pectin at Whole Foods. It's pricier than standard pectin, but each box makes 2 to 4 recipes, and it's a natural citrus pectin that allows you to use less sugar in your jams and jellies. I love it! The calcium water is included in the packet; it's not something you have to buy separately.)
1. Wash and rinse jars; let stand in hot water. Bring lids to boil; let stand in hot water. Read through the insert with the pectin, if you haven't used this brand before.
2. Either mince or puree peppers in a food processor. Place in medium saucepan with vinegar and red pepper flakes. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally, then let simmer 5 minutes.
3. Add calcium water to pan. Stir well.
4. In small bowl, combine pectin powder with 1/2 cup sugar (scoop the sugar out of the 2-1/3 cups sugar you already measured).
5. Bring pepper mixture back to a boil, stir in pectin-sugar blend to dissolve. Then add remaining sugar. Stir vigorously to dissolve, once it boils, remove from heat.
6. Fill jars to 1/4inch from top. Wipe rims clean. Screw on lids. Boil 10 minutes in hot water bath. Remove and let cool. Label.
For gift giving, tie red ribbons around the neck of the jar, add a pretty piece of cloth under the ring, or make a gift basket with crackers, chèvre or cream cheese, and a bottle of wine. (Just a few ideas I picked up from other people.)