About five years ago, I ran into an old boyfriend at a restaurant in my hometown. I was finishing lunch with my mother and then eleven-month-old daughter Anna, when I glimpsed him, sitting across from a man I didn't recognize, eating a salad. It was simultaneously jarring--we hadn't spoken in years, and I had no idea he was living in town--but it was also nice, because he was someone I had always genuinely liked, which neither distance nor the passage of time could diminish.
I blurted his name out, and he turned to face me, seemingly as stunned as I was. He and I chatted awkwardly for a few minutes, I introduced him to my daughter, and then we were on our way, leaving him and his friend to their meal. We went on with our day, but it was hard to stop thinking of the strange, seemingly-out-of-nowhere brush with the past. We were teenagers when we were together, long before I was anywhere close to fully-formed or actualized, if that's even a thing one can ever be. My not particularly self-compassionate memory of my teenage self is as an overdramatic, self-absorbed bottomless well of need for attention. There was no way that, in the three minutes I fumbled through niceties while my daughter gnawed on the leftover crusts of her grilled cheese and my mother and his friend stood by, that I had succeeded in demonstrating how far I had come since the days I used to cry on the phone on a semiweekly basis.
As I nursed my daughter before putting her to bed that night, replaying the lunchtime run-in over and over again in my mind, I realized that, in the years that had passed, I had come to think of him as the sort of keeper of everything I hated about myself when I was younger, not necessarily because they were all I ever was when we were together, but because we had largely cut off contact with one another by the time we were twenty, and so, to my mind, everything I evenutally outgrew, and the ways I eventually grew up didn't factor in to his understanding of me. I had this image of him walking around with memories of me exclusively as a depressed, dramatic, attention-craving seventeen-year-old, and it made me feel crazy. I was different now! Didn't he know that? I was actually pretty successful in life! I had written four books, produced a five-season TV comedy based on my life and writing, not to mention gotten married to a great guy and had a kid? You might be asking yourself, "Gabi, why did it matter what someone you weren't even in touch with thought about you--if he ever thought about you at all?" Don't worry, I'm getting there.
I obsessed about it for maybe a month, and then I did something that was either the best or worst possible next move, depending on your perspective: I dug up his email address and wrote to him to see if he wanted to get together for coffee to catch up sometime. Perhaps with an hour of his attention and a couple of lattes, I reasoned to myself, I could convince him of how much I had grown in the past two decades, and he'd update the Gabi Moskowitz file he surely keeps in his mind, and finally, I would be redeemed.
Reader, he did not respond, and instead of reminding myself that I was a thirty-seven-year-old married woman with a baby, and not a dejected high school senior, my feelings were hurt. I had, quite literally, reached out to my past, and my past couldn't even be bothered to make up a face-saving lie about how "things are super busy right now, but I'll let you know when I have time." Maybe all my worst fears about my high school self were true after all, and he hadn't forgotten. Maybe he'd seen my name pop up in his inbox, and thought to himself, "no, thank you," and promptly clicked delete.
I've been thinking a lot about this encounter lately as I've been pondering what my return to blogging might look like after spending the past five-plus years mostly focusing on parenting, podcasting, and revising the manuscript of my first novel, but publishing almost nothing. A lot has changed since I first started blogging, when I was a twenty-seven-year-old, perpetually single city dweller, hell-bent on becoming a professional writer. Now, almost thirteen years later, I've somehow become a forty-one-year-old married suburban mother of two, struggling to reconnect to the part of me that started this journey, back when I had all day to myself to shop, cook, photograph, and write. Back when drinking four glasses of wine at a press event didn't absolutely destroy me for the next three days, and I didn't have preschool tuition, or pediatrician appointments, or the needs of literally anyone else to worry about.
I keep reaching for her, every time I sit down to write, trying to conjure her confidence and willingness to throw anything at the sauce-splattered kitchen wall and see what sticks to it, but time after time, she leaves me on read. Is she still somewhere inside me, buried beneath all the mental labor and mom anxiety overtaking my brain, or did she leave me for somewhere cooler, maybe where Cocomelon and Raffi don't start blaring every third song when the music on my phone is set to shuffle? Is she ever coming back?
I managed to get over the ghosted ex-boyfriend email pretty quickly. All it took was a little self-reflection and a smidgen of therapy to conclude that I was, as was, admittedly, sometimes my tradition, being a little bit overdramatic. He was not, in fact, the keeper of everything bad about me, because a) that's not a thing, and b) even if it were, who cares? He's not the owner of a company I'm trying to work for or The New York Times' book editor. His opinion has no bearing on my actual life, but furthermore, whatever reason he had for not responding to my email was none of my business.
I keep wondering if the same logic applies to the other person not taking my calls: the writer I was before I went barrelling toward middle age. She doesn't appear to be coming back any time soon, but maybe that's okay. Maybe she doesn't even exist anymore, at least not in the form she used to occupy. Certainly this is true of the way I cook now. I still cook for my own tastes, yes, but the needs of the husband and tiny snack monsters I've acquired in the past decade factor in too, and some of them--and I am not naming names--are still not completely sold on vegetables. Maybe instead of trying to cajole my twenty-something writer self into reemerging, I should just let her go and work on getting to know my forty-something writer self. Who knows? Maybe she has some good ideas.
Here's what I know:
I still like to write long, meandering headnotes often more about feelings than the food. If you're one of those people who likes to Tweet about how food bloggers should just get to the recipe without yammering so much, first of all, stop making that joke, it's tired and disrespectful. Second, listen to this song. Third, if you're still not convinced recipes go well with long stories, then I'm probably not the blogger for you.
I still love developing and photographing recipes, even if my photos aren't the aesthetic ideal when you think food blog (there are so many bloggers who do that bit better than I do and I love that for them).
These bagels (Aha! There's IS a recipe in this post! I told you my headnotes are meandering.), which contain no yeast and require zero rising time--just four ingredients which you very likely already have on hand--and can be on your plate, spread thickly with cream cheese, ready to be devoured within 30 minutes of realizing you're hungry, are one of the best things I've made in a long time. Not only are they delicious, they're so easy, wildly cheap, and a favorite of every person I live with (no easy task).
I don't say this lightly: in the time it would take you to put on shoes, drive to a bagel shop, wait in line, and order, you could be eating these hot out of the oven, and they will genuinely be better. Here's how to do it.
Combine flour (either bread flour or AP flour -- bread flour will yield a chewier bagel, but AP is good too), baking powder, salt and nonfat Greek yogurt (make sure to use nonfat, not for diet reasons, but because even though this is a super nontraditional bagel recipe, bagel dough is typically fatless, and using nonfat yogurt will help them rise nicely) in a large bowl or stand mixer.
Mix it (I like to do this by hand, even if I'm using a mixer). It will be very shaggy, almost like biscuit or pie dough, but keep going. It'll come together eventually.
Once you have a cohesive ball of dough, knead it for 8-10 minutes, until very smooth and elastic.
Cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or 8-10 for smaller bagels).
Shape the pieces into balls, then poke a hole in the center and stretch into bagels.
Boil the bagels for 1 1/2 minutes on each side.
Arrange the boiled bagels on a lined rimmed baking sheet. Top if desired (no need for egg wash).
Bake at 475 for 17-20 minutes, then do your best to let them cool for 10 minutes before diving in.
They may not be the same as traditional bagels, but they're pretty damn close. Think of them as a twist on an old classic: that familiar taste you know and love, just...updated.
- 3 cups (400 grams) bread flour or 3 cups (360 grams) all-purpose flour Pantry
- 2 tablespoons baking powder Pantry
- 1/3 teaspoon kosher salt Pantry
- 1 1/2 cups nonfat Greek yogurt $4 for 16 ounces
Recipe Serves 6
- Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment, a silpat, or grease lightly with cooking spray or olive oil.
- Fill a large, wide pot (like a dutch oven) with water and bring it to a boil.
- While the water boils, whisk the dry ingredeints together in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Add the yogurt and mix. At first, the dough will be very shaggy, but as you continue to mix, the yogurt will hydrate the flour.
- Knead for ten minutes, either by hand or in a stand mixer, until the dough is smooth and elastic. This step is necessary to achieve bagels with that classic chewy texture.
- Optionally, allow the dough to rest at room temperature for up to an hour. This helps relax the gluten in the dough, making it easier to roll out, but is not required.
- Cut the dough into 8 equal portions (6 for large bagels, 10 for smaller ones).
- Roll each piece into a ball and gently poke your finger through the center, stretching each piece until it resembles a bagel.
- Bring the pot down to a simmer, then, working in batches, drop a few dough rings into the simmering water.
- Simmer for one minute on each side, then transfer to the prepared baking sheet. If you want to add toppings, now is the time (no egg was is necessary, just top the wet bagels with your preferred ingredients).
- Repeat until all the bagels have been boiled, and bake for 17-20 mintutes, until bagels are nicely browned with a thick crust, and sound hollowed when tapped gently on the bottom.
- Let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then slice and serve.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.