"I've read your draft. Nice job with your expanded analysis and examples--it helps to clarify your argument. I will leave it in a bag hanging over my office door, so you can pick it up at any time this evening before they lock the building at around 9pm. I am ready to sign off on your thesis! E-mail me very soon to set up an appointment to sign. Yay. Well done."
And there it was. I was done. Four years of work. Twenty classes. Thousands of pages of reading. Hundreds of pages written. Stress, break downs, hysteria. New friends for life. Many mentors who guided me. At the end, a thesis that took three years to write, came out 164-pages long, and 2-inches thick. With this e-mail all the hard work was done.
My thesis has been approved.
I have officially completed graduate school with a degree in English Composition. I can now teach college classes. I am now Garrett McCord, M.A.
Took long enough.
After reading the e-mail I actually spent the first ten minutes crying on my couch with BF congratulating me and holding me as I completely broke down in some of the most exhilarating joy I have ever felt. It was like I had been shot in the chest, but rather than feeling pain I simply exploded with a near existential, completely tear-bearing happiness.
The next day I spent ill. My system had spent the last few weeks addicted to stress. It coursed through my veins pumping adrenaline and fear through my organs and shot a constant flow of electricity searing through my brain. Once my body let it all go it began the process of violently readjusting; heartburn, vertigo, and nausea ensued and left me reeling as if I had just walked off a ship from rough seas. I forced it off with a round of sauce slathered barbecue and far too many beers with friends, followed by a good night's sleep. With that my body finally began to relax and readjust to life post-academia.
My brain and hands however, have not. Independent of the rest of me they still twitch for fervent bouts of stressful activity. I suddenly have 20+ hours of time that I used to spend every week on my thesis all freed up. I'm not sure what to do with myself. I feel like a parolee being released after twenty years, unsure of the world or my place in it anymore.
What does a creature of habit do when the habit is forcibly broken? What do you do when a massive part of your life no longer is? What's left is a void of time and space in your life. In your mind it's a psychic vacuum waiting to be filled.
I called friends. I read a book for fun, though I found myself compelled to highlight and annotate passages here and there. (Old habits and all...) I even spent an afternoon doing sitting on the patio doing absolutely nothing but enjoying myself.
Honestly, I'm not sure how much longer I can stand it.
Stillness, is for other people. Addiction to activity is both a vice and a blessing. It can tucker you out, weather your body, and strain the mind, but it can also produce amazing results. Relaxation is just too crazy-stupid boring.
So, I cooked. My go-to activity whenever I feel out of place.
I whipped up a yeasted buckwheat waffle batter and let it burble and grow overnight in the darkness of the oven. The next day, now doubled in size, the flavors of the flours has intensified and the room smelled yeasty and warm like recently threshed grain. We stirred in a few blueberries for bit of pizzazz in color and flavor.
BF broke out his family's old wafflemaker, an ancient device older than us both and that bears the grizzled appearance to prove it. We scooped cupfuls of the batter in between crusty jaws of the wafflemaker's maw and closed the press to the sound of the creature's steamy hiss.
Minutes later and no longer steaming - the classic sign that your waffle is done - the waffles emerged light and crispy. The flavor? Earthy, like birch wood and dry grass. The blueberries, slightly smashed, had released their juices that were cooked into a winey, jammy sauce within each waffle. This fruity filling made the bread of the waffles all the sweeter in comparison.
Smearing them with a bit of strawberry jam I ate in gratitude. Lounging on the couch, my feet propped up on the coffee table, I sighed. It was a bit bittersweet. A huge chapter of life now closed.
"What on earth am I going to do now?" I asked aloud.
(NOTE: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED) I believe in sharing knowledge, so I'm offering up some of my favorite pieces of research as a giveaway. These aren't boring pieces, either. These are books any food lover can read and appreciate. I'm offering a bundle of the following books to one lucky reader:
Oxford Companion to Food: This book made waves a few years ago when it won a James Beard award. Author Alan Davidson wrote about 80 percent of the 2,600-plus entries, with other authors and subject specialists contributing the rest. The entries, which range from Jewish Dietary Laws to Umeboshi, are deftly written to be clear, engaging, and even a bit witty. Excessive cross-referencing aside (it's easy to start on Offal and end up somewhere on Kangaroo twenty minutes later) the Oxford Companion to Food is one of those books that can answer most food questions reliably and succinctly in a way that the Internet sometimes still can't. You may not read it cover to cover, but you will find yourself referencing it again and again.
Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food Should Be Good, Clean, and Fair: Written by Carlo Petrini, the founder of Slow Food, this book one of the three central texts analyzed in my thesis. The copy I'm sending is one that doesn't have my scribbles and highlights on every single page. Yes, it can be a bit overzealous, long on rhetoric, short on data, and a bit winded; but, then again, I think the same of Pollan's books, too. This book is like Pollan's most pure thoughts crystallized in a more concise manner and with more enthusiasm. It's certainly inspriational, idealistic, carefully crafted, and salient to today's modern food crisises. As much as I knock it in my thesis, I believe everyone should read this book.
Everyone Eats: Understanding Food and Culture: It's hard to express how much I truly love this book. Anthropologist E.N. Anderson presents an anthropological study of food that is both fascinating and informative. While it is an educational text, I imagine most casual readers will still keep this on the nightstand as casual, though highly addictive, reading. Anderson demonstrates how the simple act of eating is anything but simple and explains how food becomes a focus in religion, culture, and identity, and how food functions as a defining agent in a complex society. Every time I pick it up, I seem to spend my next few meals wondering about the meanings behind my the food in front of me. A must read for any avid food literature enthusiast.
To enter the contest, just leave a comment on this post by the end of May 15th. The comment can be about waffles, research, whatever you want. Please, no anonymous comments. You must leave a name or I will be unable to announce you as the winner. You can also get another entry by going to the Vanilla Garlic fan page on Facebook. Just like the fan page and then comment on the Giveaway Thread for another chance to enter. Super easy!
The winner will be announced on my next post, which will go up on May 17th. The winner will then need to e-mail me their address so I know where to ship the swag. Unfortunately, now that I have student loans, I can't afford to send these anywhere outside the United States.
Lastly, I want to say that should you want to read the thesis I am happy to email it to anyone interested. It's boring and academic, so it may not be your thing. If you fancy yourself a foodie, amateur sociologist, Slow Food member, or just someone with a thing for Marxist critiques on cheesecake recipes then it might be right up your alley. Just shoot me an email and I'll send a PDF of the thesis right along. (Leaving a comment does not actually provide me an email address. You will need to actually email me.) If you are a student and you want to read it for your own research I am thrilled to help, but please remember to cite it properly.
Yeasted Blueberry Buckwheat Waffles
Makes about 16-20 waffles
Adapted from Epicurious
2 1/4 teaspoons or 1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups lukewarm milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons canola oil or butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup blueberries
In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast into 1/4 cup warm water and stir in the sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Place the warm milk and salt in a large bowl, and then add the yeast mixture and whisk in the flours. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in your stove overnight.
The next morning, add the sugar, oil, eggs, soda, and blueberries. Cook according to your waffle iron's instructions. When the steam stops it's a good indication that your waffles are done.