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To Do, New

In my last personal post, I mentioned how I was focusing on three things this semester:

I mentioned how I need to get all three in the bag if I’m going to fulfill my goals for the semester.

Allow me to back up a bit to explain. I came to Korea, in part, because I knew that in academic jobs, I could have more hours free during the day or week. This has materialized in a half-completed draft of one novel, a completed (first, roughish) draft of a second novel, and nothing else in long-form since 2006. Now, that’s not to denigrate the short form fiction I’ve produced, and I think I’ve come a long way in that area since 2006, but I have the goal in mind now of getting a novel written. It’s like writing masses in the early Renaissance: it’s the form one needs to write to get recognition, at least unless one is playing on the level of Ted Chiang or Kelly Link.

The thing is, I haven’t been able to do it. And it’s not that I haven’t done it, or haven’t tried. I haven’t been able to put the time in, or the energy.

After taking a step back, I think this is probably linked to my teaching. I put a lot of effort into the classes I teach, and a good professor–of course–ought to do so. But when I say a lot of effort, I mean a lot. Effort that, on reflection, seems incommensurate to both the effort and energy–and time–that students put in, and, I fear, incommensurate to the kind of benefits the majority of my students are enjoying.

So out with the unrealistic expectations, or at least, with heaping them onto my side of the equation. If students want an amazing class, they have to put their backs into it, too. I’ve slowly been relearning balance, and I think this is an extension of that: relearning balance in the food in our home; relearning balance in the way I use my time; relearning balance in all things.

I will be beginning work, again, on A Killing in Burma, starting on Monday. There are some problems with what I’ve already written, so I’ll be printing it off and rewriting from scratch after reading it all. I will probably take detours, as there are shorter pieces I want to polish into shape, or want to draft so they stop being niggling little ideas in the back of my mind. But just as I’ve set out my brewing plan for the year (or at least for the next nine months or so), I’ve got a plan for my writing, and the majority of it for the next few months is tied up with this one big project. It’s time, it’s a good thing, and I’m excited enough not to quite feel daunted yet.

But I am also trying to get back to basics. Back to cooking with a little more attention, a little more enthusiasm. There are some things I am going to pick up, like a baking stone, and some things I will sort out, like an oven I need to get repaired. These will help. Cooking is important, as Michael Ruhlman says in this video:

Had Something to Say – Cooking from michael ruhlman on Vimeo.

… and while I’m pretty sure that the science here is wrong, that people were gregarious before we started cooking–just as other primates, who don’t cook, are–I like the idea just the same. I think the world is a better place when we make things for ourselves. I say this sipping a very sour, somewhat cloudy, but rather delightful Berliner Weisse (maybe 2.5-3% alcohol) that I brewed a few months ago, and which I doubt could be commercially brewed and sold in Korea today, but which Miss Jiwaku and I both rather like. (She does like the sour beers something fierce.)

So here I am, trying to figure out where to get curing and pickling salts and how to get set up to smoke meats and cheeses and thinking about how to bake better bread. I’ve been doing some of a few of these (the cheese, the bread, the pickling) for a while, and blogged some of it, but not all. It’s not a completely new thing, but I haven’t taken it too seriously until now. Now, I want to know about these kinds of food production the way Thoreau resolved, tongue-in-cheek, to know beans.

So books about each subject (except pickling, come to think of it) are on the way, and these will be a part of my search for greater balance. One new dish or foodstuff a week (new to me, I mean), I think, is what I need to set as a goal. It could be a new batch of beer, a cheese I’ve made, a meat I’ve cured, or something I’ve taught myself how to cook. My neighborhood has far too few good food options, and we gotta eat, so it seems like a logical move.

Maybe I’ll even blog it… assuming I have time between writing, teaching, and working out, because yeah, I need some exercise, too.

Here comes good stuff.

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