I HATE packing with a vengeance. I whine, and procrastinate, and make some feeble attempts, and then end up staying up all night to finish everything in one big go. Having to ship things across the country is just making it worse. I’m a total pack rat – and I’m having to throw or give away lots of stuff that I’ve been hanging onto for the last four years, hoping against hope that it might come in handy at some point. The worst part is the books and papers. As a poet/literary scholar/teacher with ambiguous future plans, I literally feel obligated to hang onto almost everything. My books and drafts of poems are must-saves, as are the xeroxed newspaper clippings and other odds and ends that come from my research for a project on Cannery Row. I also have a ton of college term papers (that might come in handy as writing samples should I ever want to go back to school for a lit degree, which is still a possibility), and am slowly gathering a collection of curriculum materials (in fact, my writing buddy, who is also a teacher, gave me yet more curriculum materials and a book of writing prompts for children as a parting gift today). I’m leaving most of my school papers in temporary storage with my boyfriend, but the books alone take up a major portion of my possessions.
To make matters worse, my obsessive-compulsiveness kicks into major high gear when I pack, meaning that packing takes FOREVER because everything must be meticulously organized and sorted (I can’t stand unpacking boxes full of mess because then I get discouraged right away and my room just stays messy).
Perhaps it’s like writing anxiety. A person with writing anxiety becomes so afraid of putting something “wrong” or “messy” down on the page that they find they have trouble putting anything down at all. In the same way, I’m so loathe to delve into the mess that packing becomes before it resolves itself into a clean little fleet of boxes, that I can’t make myself start. In the last few days, I have taught myself how to make tapioca milk tea, watched the Olympics, cooked my own version of the Pioneer Woman’s yogurt chicken, and started designing the new OT web site. But I have only shipped and packed about half my stuff. And I fly to Indiana on Saturday morning. (Yikes!)
Last night I came home from work tired and grumpy and accomplished zilch in the way of packing. Instead, I made these:
Ube-filled Chinese Bao.
I used the Chinese sweet bread from this char siu bao recipe and combined it with Just Hungry’s bunny bao idea. But then I got tired of making rabbits, so I switched to plain round buns (I also made a couple of green onion twist rolls, but I ate those for lunch, so no pictures).
Baking bread reminds me of my brother. He loves to cook and bake and when he was in high school he went through a brief “bread craze” in which he would make a fresh loaf of bread what seemed like every three days. My grandfather hates the smell of yeast, so my brother would set his dough to rise in a clean towel in our bathroom sink. (I think perhaps the bathroom was warmer than the rest of the rooms upstairs. As to his reasoning behind the sink? I’m still not quite sure).
Unfortunately, my dough did not rise as much as it should have, and so the result was a dense, cakey kind of pastry instead the soft, sweet, fluffy one I’d been dreaming about (it sounds ridiculous, but the food from home that I now find I miss most, after my grandmother’s soups, is bao from KC’s Bakery in Philly Chinatown). It’s possible that my yeast was just old, but I actually think I might have killed most of it by adding milk that was too hot. (Maybe I should have let it rise in the bathroom sink!)
It was my first time trying to make a bread dough from scratch, though, so I guess I could’ve done worse on (the soft pretzels we made in 7th grade home-ec don’t count), so I guess I could have done worse. The result was edible. And it turns out that my roommates, who weren’t expecting them to come out tasting like real Hong Kong bakery buns and therefore weren’t crushingly disappointed, love them. So I’m letting them finish them for me.
The ube filling, by the way, was simply made by boiling some frozen ube yams we had (that I decided to use up because no one was eating them), and mashing them with condensed milk and a little cornstarch for silkiness.
I’d like to experiment a bit with some hardier bread recipes until I can figure out how to make a good basic loaf. Maybe someday I’ll be advanced enough to come back to this recipe.