22 July 2010

This is how it works

This is how it works: as a student, here is a student accommodation for you. Finished your studies? Congratulations! Now go and find another place to live then, oh yes, and good luck!

In other words, my two-year rental agreement for a shared student apartment expired last week, by which time I had to find myself a new home in Amsterdam. And so July 15th was moving day for me. Actually, that’s not true, because it was moving day for me – and Anthony.

I think it’s now an appropriate moment to mention that Anthony and I, well, we are buddies. I mean, we are together. Our story, it didn’t begin with fireworks. We both agree that the day we met was not exactly a memorable experience, except that we had quite a spectacular cloud-like sardine mousse on rye bread as a starter at dinner in a restaurant where we went. Later, we started hanging out regularly enough for me to make Anthony feel sick at the sight of toasted buckwheat grains (when I get to know somebody unfamiliar with Russian cuisine, I stuff them with buckwheat porridge a fair amount!). We became close friends. And I wanted to keep it that way, no relationship drama for me, thank you. And so it was -- until I went to Russia for a month. It’s probably a cliché to say, but distance does help to filter through the mental trash and see what’s important. It appeared to me then that I want to stick by Anthony’s side. Now I tell him every night to unplug all the electrical devices before going to bed because I believe that the electricity field all those gadgets create messes up with my sleep and he tells me to go and see a psychiatrist because I seem to have a plugged-in device phobia. I let him know he is an idiot; he informs me about my being stupid. We are buddies.

So we moved in to a new place. It’s small, but it has an oven, a Jacuzzi bath, and a DVD-player. And a tailless cat, Flash. We can stay here until the owner has come back from her travels, which will be sometime in late fall. And what’s also great is that I’m now only ten-minute bike ride from the bakery, as opposed to an hour one before. There is a café below us, and a spacious attic up a few stairs where the cat can chill out when she is stressed.

Today I was going to not only tell you all that. I was also going to make a six-minute chocolate cake for you, to give us all a treat. Unfortunately, that didn’t go as planned.

I, a baker’s apprentice, kept the cake in the oven for too long which gave it a taste of, in Anthony’s words, “burnt toast with chocolate flavor”. And if that wasn’t upsetting enough, I accidentally knocked the stuff off the kitchen counter. Golly gee whiz and a bucket of hog wash!

I’m sorry. I’ll do better next time.

8 July 2010

It is finally here

I was waiting for a day when I can throw my arms in the air and cry out loud, “I’m finished with my master’s thesis! Oh boy, am I done with it! Oh holy blessed mother!”. It took what seemed like forever for this day to come.

But it is finally here, this day!

I will not sound original if I say it is never an easy deal to write a thesis. With my on-going apprenticeship in the bakery, it certainly was no feast for me. The pressure to meet my deadlines was high, 24/7. Mood swings were constant. Tiredness and fretting were my next-door neighbors. Binging on chocolate, peanut butter and strawberry jam on graham crackers was…well, you get my drift. Ideally, I would have almost all summer to finish my thesis, but because my supervisor was leaving her job earlier, I had to hurry up and get this job done within two months. Craaaaazy!

But in the murkiest moments when I could not squeeze a single thought out off my brains and would sit at my desk, staring at a yellow post-it duck-taped to the wall that said, “Write your thesis in bite-size chunks, everyday!”, sobbing and mindlessly chewing on something sweet or other (see above), even then I still saw a glimpse of hope that I could do it. The way forward was the only way, so I toiled, and toiled, and toiled again. And now that I did finish it (holy woman!), I feel accomplished. Proud, even. And happy because now I realize I can hang out here with you and not feel guilty about doing things other than working on my thesis.

What did I write about, you might ask. Being a student of English metaphor, I chose to write about how the use of metaphor varies from one genre of food-writing to another, in particular, I looked at recipes and first-person stories about food. Not to go too deep in this theoretical abracadabra, let me just say I found metaphor in both. A (not so) funny thing is that while I was busy with writing about all that, I somehow went astray in my kitchen. I became – gulp -- disinterested in cooking. I had canned chickpeas -- with fresh herbs or curry powder or tahini or just plain out of a tin can -- almost every day for the last couple of months. And although I knew that this apathy was temporary, it made me grumpy and touchy. It made me feel “unrooted”. It felt like lights were on with nobody home. But what added up to my daily frustrations the most was that I didn’t, or rather could not, get to write a single story to share with you for months. I missed you, Reader.

I’m glad to be back.