baked goods

Ranting and Gingerbread

Can I just tell you? I kind of hate teaching sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong, most of the time, it’s perfectly fine. I could spend a good many years teaching and not be entirely miserable, but sometimes, I want to hop a plane to Paris and never come back. I suspect most teachers feel this way at times.

Let me give you a for instance. Imagine, if you will, that you are attempting to teach a fairly simple concept. Basic. Not complex. Imagine that you have not slept in a long time, several days, in fact. Imagine that you’re at the end of your proverbial rope, but you attempt to compose yourself for the brief 2-hour period of time in which you must teach a classroom full of 23 attention-deficient students. Imagine that it’s the end of the semester, and any motivation they might have had at the beginning has long fizzled out so anything short of massive pyrotechnics or possibly a spectacular magic trick won’t hold their attention for more than 30 seconds. Are you imagining this?

Now imagine that even if they were paying attention, when test-taking time comes around, less than half of them would be able to correctly perform the grammatical acrobatics that you have spent the past 2 or 3 classes teaching them how to do. Do you see it?

Now imagine that your job is monetarily worth less than that of a plumber. Imagine your prospects of employment in the future don’t promise a salary that’s any higher than the one you’re currently getting even without the allegedly massively prestigious advanced degree you’ve been working on for the past 5 or 6 long, tedious years– but who’s counting?

Now imagine going to Paris and never coming back. Sound like fun, yet?

I don’t know if it’s all worth it in the end, to tell the truth. I think most of my students just want to get their language credits, no matter how many of them say they actually want to learn the language. You know how to best learn a language? Speak it! Sitting in my class and trying to make an A won’t cut it. And you won’t believe how many students just throw their hands in the air and give up when it’s difficult, either. I certainly won’t take pity on you if you won’t at least try to figure it out. Trying and failing and trying again is what the learning process is all about, as trite as that sounds (and I know it does). The essence of how we figure stuff out in life is to fail until you succeed.

I know I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere if I just gave up every time something challenged or defeated me. Pure bull-headed stubbornness. Why do you think I’m still in grad school?

OK. Now that that’s off my chest– gingerbread!

Gingerbread with coffee glaze

(adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang, the amazing!)

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated with a microplane

Took me an hour of constant grating to get this much.
Took me an hour of constant grating to get this much.

2 eggs

3 1/2 cups ap flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 1/2 cups unsulfured, dark molasses

1 cup boiling water

1 teaspoon baking soda

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper.

Cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk together grated ginger and eggs, then slowly add egg mixture to the butter mixture until just combined. Beat on medium speed until well mixed.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, ground ginger, pepper, cinnamon, and cloves. In another bowl, whisk together molasses, boiling water, and baking soda. Make sure the bowl is plenty big– it’ll foam up.

Like this.
Like this.

Slowly add 1/3 of the dry mixture to the butter mixture, then add half the molasses mixture. Alternate adding dry and wet ingredients once more, ending with the last 3rd of the dry mixture. Mix on low until well mixed.

Mixing it up.
Mixing it up.

Bake for 50-60 minutes. Let cool in pan on wire rack.

50 minutes later...
50 minutes later…

Coffee glaze

(from the same book as above)

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

2-3 tablespoons double-strength coffee

In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and coffee until you get a smooth glaze. Pour/spread the glaze over the cake while the cake is still warm. Let sit at least 1 hour before serving, if you can wait that long.

Let's eat some caaaaaake.
Let’s eat some caaaaaake.

2 thoughts on “Ranting and Gingerbread

  1. You know, sometimes you just need a good rant. I agree with everything you say here, but I also think you have a great chance at a great job. Don’t give up the ship now, and don’t worry so much if they don’t care. At some point down the road, they will all wonder why they didn’t pay more attention sooner. Un abrazo del tío que te metió en todo esto–The Medievalist

    1. Yeah, I wrote this after last Friday’s class, which was kind of a mess– partially because of my tiredness and partially because the students weren’t in the mood to be in class at all. Most of the time, it’s a great class, and for the most part I enjoy teaching it. Thanks for reading!

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