Cute as a Bagel

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Cuteness, on the other hand, has universal standards. According to several scientific studies, these include big eyes, round faces and other infantile features.

Cuteness also seems to have universal appeal. An Atlanta psychology professor found that “men and women showed nearly identical responses to cute stimuli,” although they rate it differently for social reasons.

Some say cuteness is a survival adaptation that triggers nurturing from adults. But that can’t be true, since people also love to eat cute things.

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Still, the effects of cuteness on our brains’ pleasure centers are evident. They give laughing babiessleepy rodents—even Hello Kitty—power over us. And unleashing this power is a great way to infuse bagels with extra charm.

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Discambubolated

Spring is such a disorienting season. Yesterday, at this time, I was stretched out on the grass in the sunshine, thankful for the breeze that kept the heat from getting too intense. Today, I’m fighting with the wind to keep my hood up and wishing for a heavier coat.

I’m also discombobulated realizing how close I am to the end of another semester. I’m amazed—but how can I be so shocked when I’ve been so desperately aware of the crawling countdown to summer?

Still, I love spring—so bring it on. To celebrate the discombobulation of this lovely season, I’m throwing my blogging pendulum to the other side of the food spectrum from last week. If any of you were unsettled by last Friday’s  bean bread, you can relax. Today, it’s only oatmeal.

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A Mad Experiment

Does it sound too pretentious to call this creation “avant garde?”

I’ll accept any of the usual connotations—from daring and innovative to just plain weird.

As far as kitchen experiments go, the recipe was a surprising success. But in a parade of beloved, more traditional breads, I’m afraid it might need an intellectual term to hide behind.

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Polly Wolly

The first recipe I made from my new bread cookbook wasn’t bread.

It was Crispy Rye and Seed Crackers.

This may have disappointed my family (I strongly suspect their motives in giving me the book), but since the author, master baker Peter Reinhart, freely admits his own preference for crackers, I know I have very distinguished company outside the bread box.

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I was fascinated to find crackers—which I had only known as mass-produced snacks—among recipes for ciabatta, croissants and baguettes. I was further intrigued when Reinhart’s recipes introduced me to a kind of dough so completely different from anything I had worked with before.

Before many days passed, I had turned out half a dozen different batches. I fell in love with the process—and the results were incredible too. Who knew that humble crackers could be so classy and delicious?

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Quirky

We never decorated Easter eggs at my house. It seems a shame, because as you can see from my last post, colorful and intricate designs are right up my alley.

But we only ate scrambled eggs when I was little. In fact, some of my family members are still dubious of eggs in any other form. This breakfast pizza, for example, was deemed too frightening for human consumption.

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Hard-boiled eggs are even more objectionable, according to my sisters. So you can see why we didn’t cook a batch every spring. They might offer a fun canvas for painting, but the insides would be wasted.

I, however, learned to love hard-boiled eggs after a trip to Germany. My host family also introduced me another unfamiliar substance often viewed with suspicion: quark.

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Bored Squiggly

Boredom is bad for you.

Warnings against the dangers of idleness have circulated for centuries, and people resort to all kinds of pointless activities (or worse) when they’re bored to tears.

Doodling, on the other hand, has been officially sanctioned and hailed for its many psychological benefits.

This tactic has saved my under-stimulated brain from destruction more than once. And these shoes elevate doodles from a last-ditch defense against boredom to a wearable art form.

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Deviation

If I wanted to stir up debate, I’d say this was a traditional Irish scone.

It’s not.

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Proper scones are so traditional to Ireland that they were chosen to represent the country at Cafe Europe in 2006. Scones may even get their name from the Gaelic word “sgonn,” meaning “lump.” But applying the word “traditional” to a particular recipe always sparks controversy among aficionados.

Of course, recipes can be traditional without being uniform. These scones, however, break the mold completely. They don’t come close to “authentic,” but they are delicious. Plus, they highlight the wonderful flavor and texture of oats—one of Ireland’s oldest and greatest crops.

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