I've been thinking a lot about transformation.
About how one thing becomes another, either through manipulation of its environment, or internally, through sheer will and dogged determination.
I'm spending my days transforming milk into yogurt, and a blank screen into a book. I'm also transforming myself: from a generalist to an expert, from a dilettante to an authority, from a jumbled mess of ideas into a focused curator of research and creativity.
It's enough to give a girl the vapors.
This period of intense concentration is exhilarating and terrifying. Anyone's who has ever worked a job with any kind of deliverable knows what I'm talking about. Whether you're a student with a thesis, a tech worker with a product launch, or an actor before a play, those last few weeks are kind of a hot mess.
Everything feels like it's riding on your ability to transform your thing -- your ideas, your product, your acting -- into something other people will receive eagerly, and receive well. You want them to receive it the way you intend it, exactly as you've planned.
But of course, that's bunk.
It can't be controlled once it's outside. It's like a kid: you birth it, feed it, burp it, teach it, love it, and guide it, but one day it's going to look at you, and you're going to feel an invisible thread stretch a tiny bit thinner, and the realization will come, whether you want it to or not, that your input influences that output, sure, but only so far. Once it's out there, it's no longer yours to own.
So I'm trying to let go, a little bit, of the need to predict how my work will be received and to focus instead on the work itself. It's hard, but writing into the void is paying dividends.
A few weeks ago, I was still struggling with how my peers would react to this thing, this book I'm close to finishing. Would they like it? Be impressed? Want to share it? Talk about it? And Colin, my husband, he said this thing I immediately wrote down and taped above my desk:
Don't try to impress your peers. Try to impress your heroes.
And that's helped. Because my heroes? They demand greatness. They deserve excellence. They merit the best I have to offer. And writing for them, in my own head at least, is driving me towards the end of this process at full throttle. (Now don't tell me I shouldn't be writing for my heroes, that I should be writing for myself. That's all well and good, but myself hasn't washed her hair in several days and occasionally paces the floor and takes pictures of waffles. Myself can't be trusted to bring forth greatness at this particular moment. As Bonnie Tyler sang on the Footloose soundtrack in 1984, I need a hero.)
Transformation is hard.
But in the end, we all hope, it'll be worth it.
Recipe for Roasted Garlic, for everything and nothing at all
A few weeks ago, I bought one of those giant bags of garlic at Costco. A devoted farmers' market shopper, I don't usually buy produce in bulk, but I was hosting a large gathering and the garlic, I knew, would come in handy. I roasted 6 heads at once, knowing I'd find a use for it once it had collapsed and given up its fight. I ended up smearing it on a quiche crust, spooning it on toast, slipping it in pasta, mashing it into potatoes, and stirring it into eggplant puree. Heat transforms nearly all foods, but its ability to transform garlic from acrid to sweet is nothing short of extraordinary.
6 heads garlic
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut off the top fifth of each garlic head, exposing the cloves. Set them on a large square of foil, drizzle the tops with oil, sprinkle with salt, and close the foil to form a sealed packet. Place the foil in a small dish or on a baking sheet. Slip into the oven, and let cook until extremely tender and caramelized all over, about an hour or up to 90 minutes, depending on the size of the cloves.
Be very careful when opening the packet as the steam means business. Cool completely. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze it out of its papery skins and use everywhere you possibly can.