I adore Gretchin Rubin's book The Happiness Project. It's not really a self-help book, instead it's like listening to a friend with wit and wisdom explain in the most down-to-earth way how they're trying to live as happy of a life as possible, and how to spend a year systematically conquering that goal. Of course it doesn't hurt that Rubin writes beautifully or that she seamlessly ties in apt and thoughtful research every step of the way. Really, you should read this book! Rubin also blogs The Happiness Project here.
I am happy to report that I have "tackled a nagging task" and tackled it well. And, Rubin is right, it did make me happy. I was practically leaping around the kitchen in stocking feet--poppy seeds and sesame seeds scattering across the floor like confetti it was so darn exhilarating. Yesterday morning, I made bagels from scratch. That's right with my own two hands, a little yeast, a little flour, and a little water. In my own kitchen! Bagels like the ones you see artfully stacked in those cute little basket cubbyholes at Panera, except that I MADE THEM--so of course they were a million times better. The outside crusts were the perfect level of bagel chewiness and the insides were light and soft.
I've been saying that I wanted to make bagels since my New Year's Food Resolutions from 2009. That's two years of having this slightly uncomfortable feeling that I should be doing something with this unrequited bagel baking desire yet failing to act on it. This of course has made me think about larger and more meaningful things that we may fail to act on and why that happens. More than anything, the thing that holds us back is fear of failure and just sheer intimidation. We tell ourselves that we don't have the means or the time or the skill set. In my head I was already setting myself up for failure: "I don't have any special equipment, surely, no, no surely, it's not possible for me to make bagels. Don't you need a special oven for that? Won't it take hours? I heard something about having to boil the bagels before you can bake them. Seriously? Do I want to hassle with that?"
The thing is though, that I have a deep, deep appreciation for sesame seed bagels. When I lived in Boise, I used to have one toasted to medium well--to the point that the sesame seeds turned a dark brown--and their flavor turned deep and nutty--slathered with cream cheese nearly everyday. This habit started back in college as an undergrad, when that was about the only thing I'd eat for breakfast at the cafeteria. I'd take my bagel, wrapped in a paper napkin, to my early morning classes to eat while only half paying attention to the lecture. When we moved to Ohio, that habit stopped because I couldn't find a decent sesame bagel anywhere. You see, I take my sesame seed bagels seriously.
I have to admit that it was finally The Wednesday Chef that got me off my procrastinating butt and inspired me. Luisa's wonderful post about making bagels was just what it took to wipe away any trepidation. Interestingly enough, Luisa had been going through the same fear/intimidation process. Like me, she had been meaning to make bagels for a long time. What I've learned here is that like most things, just a little bit of knowledge (reading a recipe), and simply taking the first scary steps of the project are all that I really needed to tackle a nagging task. So, if bagels is one of your nagging tasks, click over to The Wednesday Chef's bagel making post (the recipe Luisa uses, adapted from Peter Reinhart, is foolproof). You'll be happy you did.