day three

Like a lot of people, I’m now a Bon Appétit Test Kitchen junkie, and if you happen to be one, too, you’re likely familiar with Claire Saffitz and her interesting, often exhausting escapades on Gourmet Makes. If not, Gourmet Makes takes on the wide world of commercial snack foods, only made there in the Test Kitchen out of ingredients one is (at least somewhat) likely to have on hand. As you might expect, some options are relatively straightforward, like Twix and Snickers. Some assemblage of chocolate and caramel makes good logical sense. Others, like M & Ms and Jelly Belly jelly beans, with their machine-tumbled coatings, pose somewhat more of a challenge.

In the more challenging circumstances of Gourmet Makes, Saffitz experiences a culinary dark night of the soul, somewhere around day three. It’s common enough now that day three itself has become kind of a meme, and it’s a pretty useful one, frankly, for the days when everything goes wrong. When both the things you thought you knew how to do and were good at and the things you’re just trying to grasp go horribly, wretchedly wrong, and you’re not even quite sure why.

I’ve had a week of day three, frankly, and so around all of the necessary reading and grading and writing, I turned to the things that I’m otherwise generally good at: food- and yarn-based pursuits.

My parents came to visit on Saturday, and I wouldn’t be Pennsylvania Dutch unless I had some kind of dessert waiting. Since I had some leftover raspberry buttercream in the freezer from making macarons for New Year’s Eve, I decided cake was the answer. I don’t actually like eating cake very much (brownies > cake forever), but I do love faffing about with it. So I turned to Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio (an incredibly useful book) and dug out my jellyroll pan, with the intent to make one layer of a basic sponge cake and then slice it into three strips to make a small, layered torte, filled with raspberries and whipped mascarpone and frosted with said buttercream. For reasons I cannot quite fathom, I autopiloted into halving the recipe rather than making the batter for a full layer, but didn’t realize I was doing it until I started spreading the batter into the very thinly filled pan. I had the wherewithal to at least make a false wall of foil and thus have at least a functional depth of batter for 2/3 of the pan.

The upshot? The cake layer tasted great.

But it was a mishapen thing and too thin to level. The resulting cake was tasty and appreciated by the parents, but it was a sloping, splodgy thing, as the raspberry puree in the buttercream made it defrost into a less sleek and structural frosting that couldn’t be remedied with more whipping. There are no photos.

On Sunday, I took out my new Cricket Loom with the intent of warping it for my first real weaving project. Over the Christmas-New Year break, I goofed around with some scrap yarn to learn the general lay of the land and then set to warping for a plaid scarf.

Warping a loom is a really satisfying experience; seeing the way a fabric is made from ether in an entirely different way than knitting does sings to me. Maybe it’s because my first-year writing course is hip-deep in The Odyssey again, maybe it’s because some of the yarn I’m using is yarn I bought in Santiago de Compostela, maybe because of course there is pleasure in beginning a new thing. Anyroad, the yarn unspooled and tucked over the warping peg as smoothly as anything. I counted out the color changes in the warp, had everything in its place. I slid the warp off the peg and cut the strands as needed to take the next step, which is winding the warp onto the loom.

This was the point at which I realized I had warped the loom backwards. Entirely backwards.

My choices were to cut all the warp (now just a pile of individual strings tied to the wrong side of the loom), toss it in the bin, and start over (a mistake that would cost me most of a ball of really nice yarn and my pride), or cut the warp and re-tie it, strand by strand, to the correct side of the loom, losing all of the tension created by warping the proper way, carrying on, and either succeeding or compounding the mistake, weaving still more of my precious-to-me yarn into some kind of misshapen wonk-fest I wouldn’t recognize until I’d lost several more hours of my life.

A photo of a 15" Cricket Loom with some weaving in progress.
A little variegated plaid on a 15″ Cricket Loom

I kept going.

I’m not sure how it’s going to turn out. It’ll behave differently off the loom, and it’ll behave differently after washing. It’s just a matter of keeping on, giving it all a chance to turn out. And if it doesn’t, starting over again isn’t the worst thing. Day three isn’t forever.

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