Saturday, June 22, 2013

What is 842 Dishes Till Tenure?

What is 842 recipes till tenure? It is a personal reflection, a thought piece, and an experiment all rolled into one. Cooking keeps me sane. Cooking is joy and love, and forgiveness and self exploration. And I need plenty of that these days.
The idea of the blog developed during my first two years on the tenure track. I might lack time for vacuuming, but there was always time for new recipes. I mixed writing lectures with looking at food blogs, read articles while waiting for bread to rise or bake, and went through slides while stirring risotto. And I like challenges. I had originally planned, after treating Advice for New faculty Members and Life on the Tenure Track practically as religious books during my first year, to write a book. Provide a female perspective on being on the tenure track at a highly ranked US institution.  It was called 8 articles in 500 miles, summarizing my two goals for the year: to write 8 articles and run 500 miles. In a year.

Well, that didn’t happen. What did happen was painting my apartment, writing 3 articles, running 276 miles, sustaining a knee injury that took 4 months of physical therapy to heal, building a lab, prepping 3 new courses, and getting 2 new assays to work.  Oh, and I meet B, and we got involved, and suddenly, the 8 articles and 500 miles in a year no longer seemed as important as couple dinners, cooking and eating together, and giant piles of cuddles on the couch with the cat, watching Big Bang Theory. 

Year 2, I decided to extend the goal from year 1, because even if it took me 2 years to write 8 papers and run 500 miles, that was still decent. However, a chance conversation in the hallway right at the end of year 1 lead to a brand new, shiny collaboration and project that would rapidly consume me. The missing 5 papers? They went on hold: instead I wrote nearly a dozen grants and 3 IRBs and did 3 new preps for the year. And the papers? It worked out to only 3 for the year, submitted that summer.  And cooking? Sometimes it worked – a friend got an amazing chocolate cake for his birthday. But B’s cake ingredients sat around until we finally drank the Guinness.  I did make the rest of the 500 miles though, thanks to a grueling training regime that was NOT ENOUGH for high altitude.

But, this puts us into Year 3 on the tenure track, or the midpoint in my pre-tenure years. I decided to pick back up the idea of the book. Except to write a blog, not a book. Because a book is static and a blog is evolving and fresh – and allows for increased dialogue. I cook because I love cooking, because at a very rough part of my life, it was something clarifying. And I will try to make anything, because failing in the kitchen doesn’t scare me.  In terms of how I did my first 2 years on the tenure track, I want to tell you not enough. But I know from reading some excellent blogs over the summer, that that is probably Imposter Syndrome and I am doing pretty well. I also have a yearly review letter that says I am doing pretty well.  Still, I would never claim to be an expert on how to be successful on the tenure track. Here is more a record of how to survive, and be happy, and at the least, be well fed. 

The idea for 842 recipes until tenure came from the goal to write 842 recipes before tenure. The number was decided for me. 842 is B’s track ID number, and he has two giant 842 magnets for the car. When not on the car, they live on the fridge. It was a natural progression from the giant suggestion on the fridge to the new challenge: 842 recipes before tenure. Most of the recipes featured will be the first time I try them, with notes on whether or not it worked. Most recipes will be coupled with reflection on the events surrounding the food. Few, if any will be my own creation. The creativity I have is poured into science. The experiments I do are in the lab. When I post a kitchen session, I will include a link to the website the recipe is from if possible, or a link to the cookbook.  There will be some recipes that I have done before, during years 1 and 2, that are new favorites and were worth making again and again. 

If you came for science, that is the other blog HERE. If you came for food, recipes, and life on the tenure track, then this is the right place for you. It’ll be fun, and frustrating and hopefully quite pleasant for all of us. And yes, I will discuss work and science some here too. I can’t help myself. I'm also going to do 842 miles, because you know, I just can't help myself.