Monday, October 31, 2011

I've got a halloweenhead head full of tricks and treats

Being a university student is hard. It entails long essays and even longer hours to finish them. It's no wonder some of us turn to binges to get through it. No, I'm not talking about alcohol binges, but something even worse, sugar binges.

[Non-alcoholic apple cider is one of the many things that cannot be found during UK autumn, so Amy brewed up some mulled apple juice. It's not quite pressed bitter apple juice, but it has its own charm.]

I'm sure you're well aware of the symptoms. You can feel a sugar binge coming on when you have an essay deadline coming up. Suddenly you feel an urge to look at Nigella Lawson's website instead of JSTOR articles. Nigella is very demanding and if you're going to serve her domestic goddess you'll need to sacrifice some butter and a pair of pants the next size up. Some may claim that butter is the most sinful of foods, but since we take our orders from the head domestic goddess, Julia Child, the real cardinal sin is to use margarine.
[Nerdy photo alert: Look Poppy's in the kettle!]

[Poppy's banana bread is from a Tesco recipe amazingly! I couldn't find the exact one, but this is quite similar. The key is the ginger and chocolate chips that converted a banana bread loather like me.]
The next symptom is empty cupboards. Just like when you finally revisit your chosen essay question only to find you no longer know what it's asking (what is "the cultural exchange" anyway?), when you finally find your recipe you realize you have no flour, *gasp* butter, or even sugar. You learned from the Three Little Pigs that trying to borrow a cup of sugar from the neighbor is never a good idea. Off to the grocery store you go and hey, it's kind of on the way to the library.
[S's family has recently relocated to the deep South and to embrace her new surroundings, she's fallen in love with Paula Deen. Paula's gooey butter cookies are indeed gooey and were soft and chewy for an entire week!]

The third and final symptom, when even a salad cannot save you, is when you guilt trip your friends into joining in the on the bacchanal baking. You use the ultimate purveyor of panic, Facebook, and send a message enabling everyone to take their stress out by vigorously creaming some butter and sugar around at your flat. You give the event a catchy title because you cannot come up with one for your essay, "Bakeathon!"

[My apple something, we have arguments over whether it's a crumble or cobbler, is buttery bliss. The original recipe asks for blueberries, and although they're the best filling, for this time of year you have to embrace the apple. ]
[Gingham? Apple dessert? I'm practically a Midwestern farm wife!]

As expected, everyone is just as frazzled as you. They can't find all the books they need in the library, but they have found Tollhouse chocolate chips.

[Amy, nice and relaxed- a sign of a good sugar binge, I'd say.]

It's time to face the facts, your kitchen is covered in powdered sugar and you're definitely on a sugar binge.

Rx: Brownie/cookie/cupcake/muffin of choice taken with some dough.

[She was so content that she started knitting!]

I sound like I really know these symptoms well, don't I? I must confess, I am a sufferer of sugar binges, as are some of my good friends: Amy, Poppy and S (who declined to be featured on the blog). Misery loves company so we all got together at my kitchen a few weeks back and spent as much time baking as it takes to write an essay. Sugar highs and fun ensued and we decided to make this a tradition. With the number of essay deadlines in upcoming weeks, it's safe to say this will become a long withstanding tradition. Look above for links to our recipes.

We already felt compelled to form a recent support group before the essay deluge by binging on some brownies while carving pumpkins. Maybe it's not best to use a knife while on a sugar high, but we had to make Halloween scary for us in some way.

[Getting ready to roast the seeds. Make sure to add a healthy dose of salt.]

I wish I could blame shakiness from a sugar rush for my uneven carving, but really this is why all of my high school art teachers marked me down for craftsmanship. Can you tell what my design is? It's meant to be a witch! Doesn't look like one? Fine, we'll call it "modern art." It will fit in with my nonfunctional radiators.

I know we'll need much more cathartic cooking to get through exams too so expect more posts that will make you want to get the oven going and sacrifice to the butter trifecta: Julia, Nigella, and Paula.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Your Autumn Sweater

Fall doesn't exist in Edinburgh.

You must be scratching your head right now and pondering the paradox of how Fall isn't found in Edinburgh when ruby red leaves are pictured in this post. Let's get literal here, Fall isn't a concept in British English. To the Brits, "fall" is just a verb, not a word that entails pumpkin beverages, carving, and colors.

They call it Autumn. It's not as quaint here as trips to the apple orchard or getting lost in a corn maze back in America though. The only foliage to crunch over is the leaves that turn into a slippery sludge more detrimental than delightful due to all the rain we get. As I type, the weather outside my kitchen window is the downpour that probably inspired J.K. Rowling to create dementors.

Despite the lack of pumpkin spice lattes as Starbucks (they foolishly assume that their new creme brulee macchiato will suffice, it doesn't), you can still feel Autumn creeping on in, quite literally. My floorboards creek in the cold- having wooden floors may be aesthetically pleasing, but my chilled feet would beg to differ. My single-glazed windows may give me a nice view of the neighbor's black cat jumping around the garden, but also let the wind in (Scotland has officially been proclaimed the windiest country in Europe, duh.) Perhaps, the cat is an ill-omen and maybe the flat would be warmer if I stopped engaging with witches' familiars so close to Halloween.

Superstitions or not, I've come to the conclusion that the flat's many radiators are a piece of modern art- hideous and completely nonfunctional. Right now, my flatmate and I just laugh and pull on another reindeer cardigan, but we'll need to sort this out before winter really hits because the flat will only be inhabitable for actual reindeer then.

Until then, I found another trusty mustard piece of clothing to keep me warm (thank you Topshop for enabling my mustard obsession with your amazing duffle coats) and bought a hot water bottle (yes, they still sell them, I was surprised too.) And if worse comes to worst, there's always tea. Now, I understand why the British embraced it so much.