Quarantivities & Stories #3: Baking, fermenting and crocheting

Annie Nguyen, AP Environmental Science and Chemistry Teacher

My parents are not hobbyists — growing up I never saw them developing skills “just for fun.” Either there was a utility (gardening to grow food, cooking to put a meal on the table) or it was watching TV, which is enjoyable, but rather passive. Coming into my adulthood, I was finally able to have the time and money to develop hobbies. But with a world of choices and so many things I could be interested in (Playing the ukulele? Watercolor painting? Yoga? Ballroom dancing? Video games? Learning to code?), I spent a few years bouncing from one activity to another, spending little time actually gaining knowledge and becoming disinterested after early failures. Eventually though, a couple of things stuck: cooking, baking and crocheting, fairly inexpensive hobbies that also have some level of utility (because I am my parents’ daughter, after all).

Smash-cut to our current reality — isolation. In the first week, I fell back into a familiar pattern of picking things up, working on it a little bit, and then getting distracted and moving on to some other activity. Should I bake cookies? I’d get the ingredients out and decide I’d let the eggs come to room temperature. In the meantime, I’ll keep working on that crocheted blanket. But I should also feed my sourdough starter. While I’m in the kitchen, I’ll prep some stuff for dinner. Within days, our tiny one-bedroom apartment became a flurry of art supplies, yarn, hooks, flour and random collections of dry-goods on the counters. All of this was much to the chagrin of my husband who usually tolerates my more untidy, attention-deficit tendencies with good humor … to a certain limit.

“You need to pick something and focus. Even if it’s just for an hour. And please put it away when you’re done. I live here too, you know.” Oh. Right. 🙂 

And so, dear readers, I have spent the last three weeks focused on three tasks during my now abundant spare time:

  1. Baking, with special attention to mastering sourdough breads
  2. Fermenting foods as a way of preserving them and bringing some variety to our lockdown food reserves
  3. Crocheting something other than 2D objects
Annie Nguyen

What I found is probably not a real groundbreaking revelation to most of you. Practice makes better. Whereas before, my busy work schedule prevented me from really observing and timing the fussy process of cultivating and making a loaf of sourdough, leaving a multi-day process to chance, I can now bake a small loaf of bread everyday without having to look at a recipe anymore. I have figured out how to make kimchi, pickles and even yogurt at home. Last weekend I crocheted two pairs of socks while rewatching “The Office.” This last one, you guys? Binge-watching feels productive now. I’ve even gotten better about integrating some edu-tainment into my binges by honing into YouTube channels that fuel my hobbies and make me excited to keep pursuing those projects.

Those who have taken my class know my love of a good one-pager, thus, I submit for your consideration, the first installment of my three-part series.

Starter support:

Tasty

Joshua Weissman

Full Proof Baking 

Sourdough recipes:

Pizza

Bread

Cinnamon rolls

Discord recipes:

Pancakes

Crackers