I noticed that my last few posts have been on the darker side, so it might be time to change things up a bit and get back to some more lighthearted material.
As I sit here, drinking from my Avengers themed coffee mug and looking at my Brod and Taylor Folding Proofer and Cast Iron Combo Cooker, I am reminded of the simple pleasures in life outside of just being “the cool dad”.
Being a parent is the best, of course, but being a parent 100% of the time can be draining. That is why it is so important to have hobbies.
Amid the pandemic, when everyone was stuck at home for months on end, my fiancee and I were slowly slipping into madness. With our son unable to socialize with other kids, or really even be around his cousins, we were his only source of entertainment. Take that and add on to it that I was still working remotely, and you’ll make yourself quite the crazy cocktail. It was a real “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” situation.
With our patience dwindling, almost all of our marbles lost, and any ability to entertain completely gone, we started to seek solace in some activities we could do at home.
Bear in mind, my fiancee had watched just about every available video on YouTube at this point. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that she is very studious, and she found multiple options for hobbies I had never even considered.
Our son was a huge inspiration for one of these activities solely because he isn’t a huge fan of meat, outside of bacon. But hey, who doesn’t love bacon?
That’s when we decided to start a hydroponics garden.
For those of you who don’t know what that is, a hydroponics garden is a garden where nutrient rich water does all the work. The significantly dumbed down version on how to set up a hydroponics garden is this: you simply take a mesh cup, add some clay pebbles and a seedling, and set it in a tub of water with growing nutrients under a grow light.
Again, very dumbed down.
We bought all the equipment, seeds, and as much distilled water as you could find during the pandemic.
Considering how little of the water you could buy at a time, we actually ended up delaying out garden until we could get enough. It was a huge bummer at the time, but we settled for the loss when we came to the realization that it was far too cold in our house for the time being to commit to that anyway.
While we would later build up our garden outside in the Spring, we were at a little bit of a loss in the current moment.
“Now what do we do?”
Well, we did what I had always wanted to do. The “manly man” hobby – smoking. And I’m not talking about cigars, I’m talking about meat.
About a year before then, my father and sister had come to help us move into our new house. It was the middle of the summer and my dad was really feeling a good steak after his ten hour drive from the east coast.
Our apartment complex didn’t allow grilling of any sort, so we didn’t have anything worthy to grill on when he got here.
Given the recent purchase of our house, my funds were on the lower end. Rather than splurging on a more expensive grill, I opted for a small “charcoal grill and smoker” from Wal-Mart. Not the best purchase I’d ever made, but a year later it would make for a great catalyst to one of my favorite hobbies today.
I took to the internet and learned everything I thought I needed to know about smoking meat. I learned the proper temperature to smoke at, several different rubs, the 3-2-1 method for making ribs (a specialty of mine), and pretty much everything I would need for a successful smoke day.
After a few tries with the charcoal smoker, I had opened the door to a world my fiancee and I have come to love. The following Father’s Day, she actually gifted me the smoker I use now. To this date, I hold firm to that being the best gift I have ever received (outside of my son, of course), and that if our house burned down, after my fiancee and son were out, I’m grabbing the cat and my smoker. Everything else can go.
I will be touching on my smoker hobby more as these posts go on, but I think it’s time to return to the combo cookers mentioned above.
While my fiancee and son were a big fan of my new found hobby, we were still looking for something we could do together.
Laying in bed one night, watching cooking videos on YouTube, we found ourselves in a rabbit hold of Joshua Weissman videos. After learning about the best method to make chicken parmesan, sticky buns, and birria tacos, we found ourselves watching an older video of his with some crackling sourdough bread. Mouths watering from beginning to end, we took a moment to grab a snack from the kitchen and prepared a shopping list.
The first thing we needed to do was make our sourdough starter – unbleached all purpose flour, dark rye flour, filtered water, some Weck Jars. After one week of careful calculation, watching your newest family member rise and fall so many times, you should be ready to make a Levain and get to baking.
The process itself takes roughly a full 24 hour period before you can actually take a knife to your loaf, but the wait is well worth it once you throw some quality butter on a warm slice. The dough will have to undergo multiple hours of proofing at roughly 78 degrees. While you can just do that in your oven with the light on, the Brod and Taylor Proofing Box came to be the perfect tool for the job. The consistency of the temperature will keep your timeline solid – too cold, and it will take longer for your Levain to rise, too hot and you risk killing the natural yeast produced by your starter. It’s pretty much the most scientific way to bake bread.
Cast Iron Combo Cookers and two Bannetons are required for the actual baking piece here, but thankfully their price tag is nowhere near that of the proofing box.
I will link his video here as to not bore you with every detail or try to take some sort of credit, but note that with every feeding and every bake, the bread only comes out better and better.
Considering you probably have stuff to do today, I will leave you with this: hobbies are important!
Having something to do for yourself, like my smoking, is a good way to get out of your own head and focus on something that you really enjoy. It’s a great birthplace for serotonin.
Having something to do with your family, like our garden, is a great way to bring the family together and smile about a fun mess in the kitchen.
Having something to do with your partner, like our sourdough, is an exciting way to branch out from your regular routine and discover things you love to do together.
Hobbies should be a fun way to break out of regular routine. To me, they should be a form of self-care. Do you have any hobbies? What are they? Let me know in the comments!