I arrived back in London from Ohio about a week ago and have since been attempting to get into a work groove after all the intense pie-eating and relaxation that was the week of Thanksgiving. The short, dark days and my post-travel exhaustion definitely exacerbate my tendency to want to take a three-hour nap every afternoon, but I’m powering through. Mostly, I’ve got my mind on Australia.
Australia! The continent that Leo and I are traveling to for our honeymoon! To visit our Australian friends and bask in the summer sun and eat avocado toast and acai bowls! I’m so pumped to escape the bitter London winter and sweat my ass off on the beach in Sydney (and Melbourne! And Byron Bay!).
I’m going to Ohio next week! I’m going to Ohio next week!
I never thought I would say this, but I love Ohio.
Growing up in a small town in the Midwest, suburbia felt claustrophobic to me. As an introvert, I wasn’t too thrilled that I would see someone I knew everywhere I went (mostly because I was/ sometimes still am the most awkward child on the face of the earth). I disliked that if I wanted to go somewhere, I had to drive or hitch a ride with my parents (fun fact about me: I hate driving, partly because I sort of fall asleep every time I get on the open road. I call it car-colepsy). I dreamed of living in a big city, one in which I could walk through the grocery store in peace and take public transport everywhere.
All week, I was set on making the ultimate bubble tea recipe. I bought the boba and those fat, colorful bubble tea straws. I researched how to cook tapioca pearls to chewy perfection. I tried cooking the boba for different lengths of time, with different amounts of water, over different temperatures. I tested ratios of tea to milk. I even made a gingery, spicy sugar syrup that would take the bubble tea into cozy autumnal territory.
It was a disaster.
Despite all my attempts, the boba never turned out right. Ooozing on the outside, starchy, hard, and unpleasant in the middle, I just couldn’t turn those tapioca pearls into the bouncy boba I saw in restaurants and cafés. I was disappointed and had to toss each batch I worked on.
But all was not lost: It occurred to me that there was one very successful part of this failed recipe—the spiced simple syrup. I realized it would taste damn good in another drink. I went back to the drawing board. I decided to veer away from tea and make the drink with strong iced coffee instead, for an extra-caffeinated buzz.
Oh, and rum. Because if there wasn’t going to be any boba in my beverage, there might as well be alcohol in it.
My favorite place in the world materializes on Sundays. Right around the corner from our house, a little market sets up early every Sunday morning. The traders put up their tents and fill their tables with handmade scarves, warm sourdough, antiques, olives, local apples and pears, and layered cakes. One food stall begins cooking curries and another prepares a huge skillet of sliced potatoes with impossible amounts of butter, bacon, and Camembert. Up the street, one of my favorite food vendors lays out an array of colorful, crunchy chickpea and lentil salads.
As much as I love coming up with new and exciting ideas for original recipes, a part of me absolutely adores all those “copycat” recipes I see on Pinterest. You know the kind: “Copycat Red Lobster Biscuits!” “Little Debbie Cosmic Brownie Copycat Recipe!” “Copycat Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Double Chocolate Chip Frappuccino!” The idea of being able to make a perfectly engineered, big-name food product at home with real ingredients is undeniably appealing (I can make Girl Scout cookies at home? Year-round? Without having to chase down a little girl in a green vest? Sign me up!) .