I think I have always been a creative person. I have tried to repress that side of me in all my education, career, and really, life choices to date, but deep down, the right side of my brain likes to take a mallet to my left side sometimes. It fights a good fight, then locks the left side of my brain in the closet for a few hours and does its own thing. Sometimes, both sides will work together. I need the left side of my brain for motivation to push the right side of my brain – for example, to commit willpower to keep up with this conversation. The left side of my brain logically knows that writing (and even writing about nothing) has been a psycho-therapeutic exercise, so it automatically pushes my right side to keep up with this exercise even if not a single person reads this or even cares. I feel I am more eloquent in written word than I am with coherently expressing myself in person, so having this as a supplement to professional help has been, in more ways than one, helping me to survive each day, especially now that I am back to work and facing anxiety-ridden situations three-fold.
Sometimes though, anxiety will just kick open the door, create a shit-storm and ruin everything, and nothing will work. Sometimes, I will take a drug that makes me feel hungover all day and not want to do anything but crawl under a blanket, but that is not the point of this story. The point of this story, as I will share next, is about how creativity has in some ways saved me.
Growing up, I loved being creative, and more specifically, I loved drawing. For some time there, I was even actually ‘good’ at it. I am not sure what happened between elementary school (even high school) and now, considering a week ago, I was playing Telestrations (a Pictionary-type game) and could – embarrassingly enough – barely draw a stick-figure properly; but that aside, growing up, I drew as much as I could. One of my fondest possessions was a 48-count Prismacolor pencil crayon set. In between school and all the numbness-inducing activities I was enrolled in (like Brainchild (…) – why again did I do an undergrad degree in mathematics?), all I ever looked forward to was the little time I could spend with that set, and figuring out how to become a better drawer (and all the associated techniques) in the process. Whenever I was upset, I remember that I would try to ‘get away’ and draw, and in doing so, I would always somehow feel better.
Throughout elementary school into high school (for all those bullshit careers courses), I wanted to end up doing something creative (draw, be a ballerina, concert pianist, etc.,). I also grew up with extremely logical Chinese parents (or rather, a crazy mother; my dad was rather passive) who cared about nothing but what was on paper, and I was completely submissive as a kid / teenager, so that direction never really panned out. Later in high school, I completely stopped drawing, and I never really did it again. I think the pencil crayon set (and some sketching chalk) might be still at home somewhere at my dad’s house, but knowing him, he probably donated it all when I moved out.
Somewhere between high school and graduating university, I learned how to bake. I sucked hard at it at first (and sometimes still do), but once you do enough of something, and there is a gradual improvement, you keep on wanting to do it. I eventually got to the point where I was good enough that I could be really ‘creative‘ with it. I think in many ways, I translated my love of drawing (and the visual arts) and creative energy to baking, and I am really appreciative of the fact that I did. Like with drawing and paintings, there are no boundaries to how ‘pretty‘ you can make food look. Like with the visual arts, it is all subjective anyhow, but I figure that anything I make in the kitchen these days would have been comparable to anything I put on paper if I kept with drawing. Last year, when I had to face endless periods of extreme anxiety and lows head-on, especially with being at home alone endlessly, I would always try to calm myself down with baking projects. Being creative with any pointless baking project (i.e. only JH would eat it) distracted me, and in the most opportune times, would keep me from getting in my head, worrying about logical things and then subsequently freaking out. Freaking out so much that the wrong ‘end in sight’ seemed closer in reach.
Anyways, all this blabbering leading up to some Tiramisu Pillows I made on the long weekend. I loved photographing these pillows on their own, but after a little while, I decided I wanted to make one look prettier on a plate. Playing with these pillows struck my memory, reminded me of drawing and how much I loved it. Even though I do not do it anymore, I am glad I was able to channel and translate one creative energy into another. And for all it is worth, being creative is the thing that saved me last year, and in many ways, is still saving me today.
- Mood – Nostalgic. Today is also the nine-year anniversary of when JH and I started dating officially back in university. He refused to acknowledge it this morning, but it is kind of weird, warm and fuzzy to think about how long we have been in each other’s lives. Next year, it will be a decade.
- Focus – Creative projects.
- Craving – Tiramisu.
- Feedback from the husband – He thought they were yummy, light and fluffy. JH hates coffee, but liked the fact that they did not taste too much like coffee. This was probably because I used kahlua versus espresso as the ‘caffeine’ base.
The Not-So-Secret Secrets:
TIRAMISU TUXEDO PILLOWS
Tiramisu Mousse – Adapted from here
1 gelatin leaf
|Bloom the gelatin leaf in cold water.|
|180 g whipping cream||Whisk the whipping cream until very soft peaks form.|
1/4 cup water
90 grams sugar
|Whisk the egg yolks, water and sugar over a double boiler. Keep over heat until the mixture is hot to touch. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.|
4 egg yolks
475 g mascarpone cheese
|Whisk the bloomed gelatine into the yolk mixture. Add the mascarpone cheese, vanilla extract and kahlua, and whisk until smooth. I used the immersion blender for a couple of spins to ensure the mixture was really smooth.|
2 tbsp Kahlua
1 tsp vanilla extract
|Gently fold in the soft whipping cream to the mixture.
Fill the mixture immediately into silicone ‘pillow’ moulds. I froze these overnight so that they would be easier to remove from the mould the next day.
- Unmould the pillows once they are frozen.
- Using a sieve, sprinkle cocoa powder over each individual mousse (FINALLY – I got the powder shot; maybe I am getting a bit better as a photographer).
- Use any type of flat cookie for the “ladyfinger” base. I used sugar snaps. After a day or so under the mousse, the cookies soften creating that sponge-like texture of ladyfingers.
- For the plated dish, I served the mousse and base with fresh raspberries, a strawberry sauce (macerated strawberries and sugar thickened with a bit of gelatin powder to keep those ‘circles’), and a bittersweet chocolate quenelle.