January Mornings


I moved to Seattle last February so this January business is all new to me. I remember pulling into the city in the U-Haul we lovingly named Hugh on a sunny February afternoon. We were eager with anticipation and hope, schlepping everything into the house in tee-shirts with a few strong helpers and occasional mild cursing. Seattle really made a showing that day. I’m gathering that wasn’t exactly typical, although I really do appreciate the gesture. This year the winter mornings have not been warm enough to encourage tee-shirts. They’ve been quiet, extremely cold but — lately — startlingly sunny. That bright light, despite the layer of ice on my car, has helped get me to yoga when I’d much rather stay inside nursing a cup of coffee. It’s been enough to inspire me to send letters to old friends, organize all of my tax documents, make some pretty great oatmeal and take long winter walks with Sam. I’m not letting myself have the space or the moment or the luxury to miss those warm summer days that now seem like a distant memory. I know they’ll come back (they will, right?). For now, there’s just putting one foot in front of the other, getting my work done, and sneaking out in that light whenever it decides to make a showing.


It all feels dutiful in a way, but it also feels just right. The excess of the holidays is behind us; it’s time to focus on what’s ahead. There’s not much outside to distract me this month (although Sam would –and does– sing the praises of hoar frost), and it seems like many friends are hibernating in the evenings. It’s been quiet and cold. I’m sure you can relate.

On the evenings when I don’t fall asleep the second I crawl into bed, I’ve been slowly reading a new book that I’m really loving. It’s called Daring Greatly by Brene Brown (do you remember her TED talk?) Yes, it’s a touch on the Self Help spectrum of things and I don’t often venture over to that part of the bookstore, but for Brene Brown I make an exception. As I started the book, I kept thinking that anyone in a relationship should really, really read it. And then I thought that anyone with siblings should read it, parents should read it, anyone with a boss, anyone creative who puts out a product that other people will see. That other people will judge. So, really, I think we all should read it. At its core, it’s about learning to be vulnerable — or, in other words, learning to fully let down your guard and realize that other people’s expectations of you don’t have any bearing on who you really are or what you’re worth. That your work isn’t who you are. That you must learn to show up fully. A tall order for a dark winter day, I realize.

The first line in the book that struck me was this one: “Scarcity thrives in a culture where everyone is hyperaware of lack. Everything from safety and love to money and resources feels restricted or lacking. We spend inordinate amounts of time calculating how much we have, want, and don’t have, and how much everyone else has, needs and wants…we’re called to ‘dare greatly’ every time we make choices that challenge the social climate of scarcity.” There are days when it feels like all of our friends are out traveling somewhere great, days when I feel my business should be something it’s not, days when I wonder when we’ll own our own house or whether people will like cooking from my book. It’s all questions and doubt. It’s all lack. And it serves no one well at the end of the day, certainly not me. It’s the opposite of just putting one foot in front of the other and showing up fully — instead, it’s allowing myself to get distracted by fears of what others think, feelings that my work won’t be enough, feelings that our friends are getting ahead in ways we’re not (or, at the very least, just have way cooler weekend plans).

In speaking about the term “Daring Greatly”, Brown’s referring to a speech Teddy Roosevelt gave in 1910 called Citizenship in a Republic. In it, Roosevelt talks about the average, everyday men who have to show up in the arena and “who at the best know in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” It’s really easy to not even step foot into the arena for fear that we’ll fail or for fear that we’ll be judged for lackluster work. It takes a whole lot just to show up and put our whole selves out there. It’s dutiful. It’s important. And on a really minute level, it’s how I’ve been feeling this week: I’m just showing up at my computer to do the work that needs to get done. Showing up to see a few friends in the evening. Showing up to talk with Sam about his day.

About halfway through the book, Brown notes, “If you own the story, you get to write the ending.” I love this line because there’s an element of choice to it. There’s a lot of factors we don’t get the luxury of controlling, but showing up each day in the arena ready to face whatever it may look like? That one’s all ours. Some days the arena looks really daunting to step inside: the days when you get your manuscript back from your editor and realize people are actually going to see the thing you wrote and it all starts to feel really big. And some days the arena is smaller. These scones were born from one such day. I was up early before Sam and didn’t want to peek at my email just yet. The night before I’d taken a marmalade class from Rachel of Blue Chair Fruit, and I had four bright little ball jars of sunny marmalade basking on the counter. I thought about Kim Boyce’s Buckwheat Scone recipe and how I’ve been meaning to try them for ages. I put the coffee on. I steamed a little milk. I cut up a stick of butter, preheated the oven, and began to make scones. Dutifully, just following the directions before me.

Quick Note on Buckwheat: In the U.S., buckwheat is most often ground down into flour with its beautiful purple/gray color. Naturally gluten-free and high in protein and fiber, buckwheat groats have a really assertive flavor (some call it grassy), but when they’re ground down into a flour, the flavor and texture somehow changes and becomes quite mild and wonderful. For this reason, bakers have started adopting it in everything from quick breads to muffins to cookies. It’s fine, soft and a dream to work with in these scones, and it should be relatively easy for you to find in the bulk bins of a well-stocked grocery store or Bob’s Red Mill will always come through for you online in a pinch.

Buckwheat Marmalde Scones

Buckwheat Marmalde Scones

  • Yield: 12 scones

In her lovely book, Boyce fills her scones with a fig jam, but I used marmalade instead. Be careful because the chunks of citrus in the marmalade can burn onto the bottom of the pan if you over-bake these, so just keep an eye on them, and check their bottoms every now and again. Besides that change, I used natural cane sugar instead of white sugar because it’s what we had on hand and added in a little orange zest for extra citrus  flavor in the scone itself. Next time, I may just sprinkle in some dark chocolate bits as well (if you do, let me know how it goes!)

Adapted from: Good to the Grain

Ingredients

Dry Mix:

1 cup buckwheat flour
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup natural cane sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Wet Mix:

4 ounces (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups heavy cream, plus 1-2 additional tablespoons if needed
1 cup of your favorite marmalade

Instructions

Whisk together all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the butter to the dry mixture and rub it between your fingers, breaking it into smaller bits. Continue rubbing until it’s coarsely ground and feels like grains of rice. Work quickly so as to avoid letting it get too warm. Add the cream and gently mix with a spatula until the dough comes together.

Transfer the dough onto a very well-floured work surface. It’s a sticky dough, so make sure your hands are floured, too. Roll the dough into a rectangle that’s 8-inches wide and 16-inches long and about 3/4-inch thick. Feel free to use your hands to help guide it. As you’re rolling, run a spatula under the dough to ensure it’s not sticking (if it is: more flour!).

Spread the marmalade over the top of the dough. Roll the long edge of the dough up, patting the dough as you roll so it forms a neat log, 16-inches long. Roll so the seam is on the bottom and the weight of the rolls seals the edge.

Use a sharp knife to slice the log in half. Carefully transfer to a plate and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes (or covered with plastic wrap for up to 2 days). While the dough’s chilling, preheat the oven to 350F.

After chilling, take both logs out of the refrigerator and cut each half into 6 even pieces, about 1 1/4-inches wide. Place each scone flat on a baking sheet, with 3-4 inches inbetween each one (they spread). Give each a little squeeze to shape them into perfect rounds. Bake for 38-40 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, and checking periodically to ensure the bottom of the scones aren’t burning. They’re done when their undersides are golden and the tops are golden brown and firm.

The scones are best eaten warm out of the oven or on the same day they’re baked. That being said, cover any leftovers, store at room temperature, and warm before eating the next day.

Comments

  1. katy

    This is a lovely and inspiring post. I really like what you say about the importance of just showing up....Really, I'm tempted to go out and buy this book; sometimes, we all need a little reminder.

    And the scones look scrumptious, too!

  2. sara

    i think I need this book. Sounds wonderful.

    1. megang

      Sara- I think you'd really, really like it. Judging from the few conversations we've had about relationships, I think you and I are a touch similar and it's been really great for me to read. xoxo + happy Sunday! m

  3. momgordon

    Oh...I don't know honey. You certainly get to write most of the story, but you just might not get to write the ending. And one needs to be ok with that. Showing up, there's the heart of it- the beginning, the middle, and the end.

  4. Jacqui

    I loved Brene Brown's TED talk so much! Need to pick up the book now. I started baking a little with buckwheat flour recently too. It has such an unusual consistency, but such a great flavor! I haven't used it in scones yet though, these look lovely!

    1. megang

      Thanks, Jacqui. Yes, it does take a little while to get used to, doesn't it? The book is awesome - If you like her TED talk, I'm sure you'd really enjoy it. Have a very happy weekend, m

  5. Ashley

    I read one of her books last year (The Gifts of Imperfection), so good. I too have being thinking a lot on vulnerability and its presence in building true intimacy. And also how it translates to creating. It takes great courage to create and not fret over the response. I'm trying to find the joy in the creating and anything else is just a bonus.
    And hey, if that sun comes out again (as it seems it shall) I'd love to go for a winter walk and catch up - perhaps my friends, coffee or tea would like to join us?

    1. megang

      Yes, Ashley! It's been way too long. We're off to Montana next week, but when we return I'd really love to see you!

  6. Savannah

    You should sprinkle them with chocolate! Not sure if they're in her book, but at Bakeshop, Boyce makes a similar scone with rye flour, marmalade, pecans, and chocolate chunks. They're AMAZING.

    1. megang

      Ohhh Savannah, I'll have to check them out. I visited her shop last time I was in Porland and didn't see those in particular, but they'll be on my radar now. Have a great Sunday, m

  7. molly

    Daring Greatly.

    Megan, this one will be with me all week. And long beyond, if I've half my wits about me.

    Thanks for this. Off to watch the TED talk...

    M

    P.S. And happy Seattle January to you. One of my favorite Seattle months, truth be told, all steaming mugs and bumbershoots and excuses to read another chapter.

  8. El

    Long time no see! Glad to hear things are moving along with you baking and your book. I agree with the sentiment here, definitely. I'll have to check out the Ted talk too. In the meantime, I'll just drool over the scones ...happy 2013 to you and Sam.

  9. lori

    Gosh, Megan I wished you lived nearby and we could meet for coffee to ponder these types of thoughts. I love your approach to life.

    Hope it's warmed up a little there!

    Lori

    1. megang

      Oh, Lori, I'd love that too! Someday (and obviously let me know if you're every up our way). Hope you're having a great week, ~m

  10. Dayna

    Wow, wow, wow... I think I'm going to have to read that book. The quote about getting to write our own endings if we own our story is super powerful. Just reading your post on it has given me a lot to think about, so I can't even imagine how the book will make me feel.

Join the Discussion

Spring Desserts

Whole Grain Any-Fruit Crisp

Whole Grain Any-Fruit Crisp

On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing. 

Read More
Cherry and Poppy Seed Yogurt Cake

Cherry and Poppy Seed Yogurt Cake

Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.

Read More
For Now, For Summer

For Now, For Summer

We walked to the library last week and I had a strange realization standing in line watching Sam check out his usual massive stack of books: Will I ever have the time to read stacks of books again? I used to be much more of a reader than I am today -- a fact I'm not at all proud of. But when evening rolls around and the more formal workday ends, I find emails and other odds and ends creep in. Walking home from the library, I began obsessing over free time for reading, asking Sam if we'd ever be those two old people who study bird manuals and can recognize birds on walks. I want to have the time to read bird manuals someday. For now though, we're young and we're working a lot. We did sneak away on that one-night camping trip I told you about, and cooked some interesting, haphazard meals which I hope to share with you soon. For now though, for summer: a strawberry dessert recipe.

Read More
Good and Simple

Good and Simple

Much like friends, types of Sunday mornings, or books -- there are many different kinds of desserts. Sometimes you may be in the mood for a light French cake piled high with summer fruit. Other days, a thick slice of fragrant pound cake will do. And then there are those days when you crave a rich chocolate mousse that you share after a night of good conversation and a little too much wine. But let's be honest. When it comes right down to it, the most basic and unassuming dessert of all is sometimes the only one that will do. A good and simple affair. Vanilla ice cream. So I want to talk about that today--about a dessert that withstands the test of time, that will always be there for you. A dessert that is far from trendy, that doesn't play favorites or  trick you into thinking it's something that it's not. It's a good foundation. A solid beginning.

Read More
Visions of Greatness or Something Like It

Visions of Greatness or Something Like It

[ Pie. if you've been around here much in the last few months, you know that I make pie. A lot of pie. And I'm particularly excited to share this pie with you today because it helped me break out of a rut. A pie rut. A baking rut. A Marge inspiration rut.

Read More