Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Crocuses and Carrots

I don't know about you, but I am ready for spring.  I remember, growing up, embarrassed, watching my mother touch the trees and croon to them, thinking that she was certifiable.  And wouldn't you know it, just the other day, coming back from a run, I found myself inexplicably drawn to a budding branch, some mottled tree bark, a patch of purple crocuses.  I had to touch them.  It was like I needed a physical connection with the life force that was surging through the natural world, starting over.
When I came home today, I found this in the garden in front of our house.  Though I didn't run my fingers over the delicate petals this time, I immediately ran in and grabbed the camera.  Hooray for light, and new life!

The students were back from Spring Break this week, and my Intro to the Thesis class dove right into syntoptical reading and concept mapping.  Or rather, I threw syntoptical reading and concept mapping at my class, and they struggled admirably with my vague direction.  Of course, I brought cupcakes.  But these contained an important lesson for them today, about failure, and moving forward, and changing plans.  All important considerations for naively optimistic youth about to embark on a major project with no predetermined path or certain goal.  All important considerations for a baker.  Or someone trying to get pregnant.  Actually, for just about anyone.

Behold, the carrot.  Lowly root vegetable.  Amazing how adaptable and accommodating they are, isn't it?  They are happy as a side dish, as a main course, as breakfast, as snack, as dessert.  I had a few left over from a curried chopped vegetable salad from the White Dog Cookbook (which I unfortunately did not photograph; it's such a cheerful dish, full of bright and bold colors) that I'd made earlier in the week, and I wanted to use them before I left for my conference tomorrow.

The first time I made this recipe, a few months ago, I'd attempted mini-cupcakes.  I was making them for a special event, and there were going to be a lot of people, so I thought bite sized might work better.  Much to my dismay, they sank; I opened the oven to discover little concave carrot cake hollows, which I later filled with frosting, treating them like tart shells, and telling myself that frosting hides a multitude of errors.  Luckily, the people I was serving them to have low standards, and were appreciative nonetheless.  I was convinced that doing them as standard-sized cupcakes would solve the problem, and set about mixing batter late last night.

When the timer buzzed and I opened the oven door, though, my heart sank.  Concave tart shells, again.
I mixed up the cream cheese frosting, and did what I did last time: piled the frosting on, starting as filling and ending up as a topping.   When I got to class today, I told the students that the cupcakes were an experiment.  That they tasted pretty good (Steve had done quality control for me), but that they didn't come out as I'd planned.  But that I had a deadline (our class meeting), and so I cleaned them up as best I could, and knew that I'd be going back to the kitchen to try again next week.

I reminded them that they, too, would have weeks of partially (or fully) failed experiments next year.  And that they'd probably have to show some results to their advisor that they were not entirely proud of, even having tidied it up as best they could.  But that they should feel confident about heading back to the kitchen to try again, having learned something in the process.  That maybe they'd have to change the way they were collecting data, or doing the analysis, or maybe they'd have to toss out the recipe entirely and start over, but that they'd be better for it.  That it's OK to re-tool, to change plans, to be flexible.  And that maybe the best results are sometimes the unexpected ones, the ones you're not even trying to get.  That failure doesn't really mean failure.

I think they thought I was a little crazy.  They peeled the wrappers off and ate.  As for me, well ... I'm not posting the recipe today.  Though they are lovely to look at, especially in the spring sunshine, I'm going back to the kitchen on this one.

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  1. I'm eagerly awaiting spring myself. It will be warm around here, then chilly, and snow in the forecast for Friday (YUCK!). I really want my flowers to bud and bloom though. Even though you have sink-hole cupcakes going on, they are still delish looking, and as soon as you get the recipe "perfect" I can't wait to make them and try them out.

    ICLW #33

  2. It's much easier to hear a difficult lesson if you have a carrot cake cupcake! :-)

  3. I firmly believe that this was the longest, coldest, sickest winter ever on record and I am eagerly awaiting warmth and sun!

    Cupcakes...regardless of how they turn out...are good. :)

  4. Perhaps there was too much moisture? Does the recipe call for draining the carrots at all after they're shredded?

    I'm sure they tasted fine, even if they collapsed. You could pretend that you meant to do it that way and I bet people would believe you.

  5. What a fabulous way to make a point with your class. Even if they didn't turn out the way you wished, they look fabulous.

    I love crocuses too. I have some gorgeous dark purple ones in my front yard.

    ~ICLW #31

  6. I am so hopeful and happy for spring this year! I have been cooped since basically last summer from my bed rest, then a broken foot. shall be a good one I'm proclaiming. I would love to come back for more recipes. Following you now. Happy ICLW!


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