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Too much cornstarch

As part of the general winter is blah experience, I’m struggling to be inspired with meal planning. We have a list of things we eat over and over, we choose some things before we go shopping, we eat those things. Though, by the way, for almost two years we’ve been doing what I’ll call a partial Ana–we eat the same thing Tues-Thurs, and for work lunches, I prep a bunch of salad stuff and take it to work so I can have delicious, nutritious salad all week, which I am remarkably not tired of yet. Those posts were great.

So I look for recipes online, and try new things, and they are almost always disasters. Like the other day, I rushed home from work to go shopping, rushed through the shopping, rushed home to try a new recipe. The babies were extra screamy, so concentration was at low ebb. There was a critical moment where instead of adding two tablespoons of cornstarch dissolved in water, I added three tablespoons of cornstarch not dissolved in water, and when I added the sauce to the hot noodles…uh, it’s difficult to describe the result. My perfectly nice soba turned into an…Object. A hard, sticky, greasy-yet-powdery Object. Thankfully, Mr. Bunny was kind about it. In fact, he reported that the Object totally cheered him up and was the high point of his day. We did not eat it. We had the frozen mozzarella sicks I’d bought to keep the babies entertained while I was out of town.

When I have a disaster, I take it hard. I feel like I can’t cook. I resent the wasted time and ingredients, the dashed expectations. You know, I was supposed to be preparing an amazing meal while my spouse took care of the screaming children, not making inedible slop.

So now’s the part where I tell you it’s about more than cooking. It’s also about my job. This week I did the analysis for a project I’ve been working on for THREE YEARS (data collection was just insanely slow), and the results show a big pile of nothing. I’m taking it hard. I feel like I can’t do research. I resent the wasted time and labor, the expectations. You know, I was supposed to be being brilliant and making the world a better place through the pursuit of knowledge while other people took care of my children.

It’s also about my parenting. I’m currently facing the fact that all of the trying I’ve been doing around a particular parenting issue may have been prolonging the problem. I’m taking it hard. I feel like I can’t parent. I resent the wasted time and labor, and I’m questioning my approach to every damn thing.

I’ve gotten a million times better at picking myself up after getting beat down. I don’t get stuck in the negative self-talk (I’m worthless, I’m a failure) loop anymore. I usually write it out and let it sit, and the sting fades pretty quickly. But you know how sometimes one part of your life sucks and you take comfort in the other parts? Right now it’s a convergence of I put too much cornstarch in that and I really wish I hadn’t.

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Oh, Bunny, that’s hard. One of the things I’ve always valued about my field of research is that my stuff comes out of my head, I don’t actually have real data that I have to work with, so I’m never faced with the prospect that years of work could be for naught. So scary.

    January 7, 2015
  2. Don’t know about the other stuff, but when that happens with my research, I make sure the data are clean and then I start making cuts of the data to see if it is prevalent for specific groups. This last time it turned out that the effects were exactly opposite for the two different demographic groups so they cancelled each other out. Other things to try are cuts by quintile (maybe you have outliers messing things up, maybe this is something only true for the not-lowest or not-highest quintiles) or different functional forms (maybe it’s quadratic instead of linear). That sort of thing, but translated to your science rather than mine. I almost never find something with the first cut, because there’s always something that’s gone wrong somewhere and once it’s fixed something shows up.

    January 7, 2015
  3. Ugh. I feel you. Been there on all of this and will be again. Thanks for making me feel less alone, as always. And for the reminder to get out of the negative self-talk rut. Hoping that this too shall pass, and for acceptances and funding and showering of praise and quieter children.

    January 8, 2015
  4. Nicky #

    I’m sorry you’re feeling down, and I am glad you’re not getting trapped in negative thinking. I get it. I, too, have made inedible slop when trying a new recipe. Lately, mine have involved crunchy lentils. Also, 3 years of labwork and a big steaming pile of nothing? Right there with you. Over-parenting to try and MAKE kid use potty, for 18 months? That’s me! Luckily, there is convenience food for when we screw up in the kitchen and kids are really rather resilient as long as we love them and are trying. The research stuff… Eventually something has to work. Failure is a necessary part of learning, and success. It REALLY sucks, though.

    I hope you can find something to look forward to, and get past the current doldrums. Plants do it for me. I’ve gotten who-knows-how-many plant catalogues in the past month and it just brightens my day to plan what I’ll grow this summer. Potatoes are fun, we like Yukon Gold and Kennebec. Books too, they whisk me away from everything unhappy.

    Good luck. Try Cook’s Illustrated Skillet Chicken Pot Pie. It has vermouth in it! Buy lots of cream, make the biscuits. Heaven in a bowl!

    January 8, 2015
  5. SRB #

    Well, fuck. Sending you another hand squeeze woman. Because I have mad love for you. That negative self-talk? Glad you are letting it know that it should probably fuck off.

    I will post about a slow cooker chilli that I make pretty soon. You should make it. It is yummy and impossible to fuck up. Yes, impossible. As someone who has been beaten by her slow cooker more than she has one, the chilli is a winner! My children eat it! You can use your chipotle sause on it. 😉

    January 8, 2015
    • HA! Guess what we’re having this week? Slow cooker chili. and I DO use my chipotle sauce on it.

      January 8, 2015
  6. Well I think you’re fucking awesome at so many things parenting being on the top of my list. I strive to learn from you. I understand on the cornstarch. I cook healthy meals and the boys are like yuck and then I’m all why did I just waste time money and effort making this nutritious homemade food for you when all you want if fucking carbs out of a box with a bunny on it. It’s heart breaking to me.

    This is one that my kids do like..sans meat as we don’t do meat. It’s fast and healthy.

    Maybe there is a silver lining to the research data. Maybe there isn’t. But you did something. You worked on something. You have A result. You are brilliant, amazing and wonderful.

    January 9, 2015
    • I think you’re fucking awesome, too, and thanks for the recipe. Yeah, Bunlet is recently starting to TRY things again after a phase of rejecting all dinners. Bun Bun survives entirely on the calories she consumes at breakfast. It’s tough. It’s astonishing how much nicer dinner is when both babies spend some time eating.

      I made these and the babies nommed them down. As did I–I’m not making snacks I’m not eating too! Might ease your heartbreak.

      January 14, 2015
  7. Ana #

    I love this post on so many levels, sadly because I can relate to almost all of it (not the cooking of course because the Ana method is the bomb). But the cooking is THE ONLY thing not overly cornstarched in my life right now. 3 years and a training grant worth of research for negative results I can’t get published anywhere? yup. parenting woes (i.e. am I messing up my kid? yes, I’m probably messing up my kid). With the work stuff, its really hard to drive out the negative self-talk because others (paper and grant reviewers) are right along with me “this is crap and you are crap and get the fuck out of here with your crappy work and crappy self”. Good for you for slogging along, I hope something comes out of the 3 years worth of data, sometimes a little distance and a re-look will bring you some little nugget of gold! And of course, you are clearly an amazing mother regardless.

    January 10, 2015
  8. Winter Blue #

    Oh bunny I hear you on the research failure… sometimes I wonder if everyone else just makes up their data (what do you think, could I be on to something?). I just paid a postdoc wayyyy to much of my grant money for 2.5 years to find a whole pile of nothing. Now I am dreaming that a brilliant way to write up nothing comes my way. In my darkest hours I also ruminate on the idea that I am a failed scientist. I had to give a couple of talks recently on my crap data – I call it my ‘sad science talk’. Then I beat myself up for being too hard on myself (publicly).

    On my best days, I try to remind myself that science is supposed to be about failure. If everything worked, if every idea were correct, we wouldn’t even need science. But the flip side of that is that you don’t get much recognition for things that don’t work, even if it is philosophically what science is supposed to be about.

    I wish I had something more helpful to input… other than, you are not alone. Other people have sad science. I don’t know why so many people’s science works apparently so much better but mine doesn’t either 🙂

    January 10, 2015
  9. Thank you so much to fellow academics, data-collectors or otherwise. It’s always helpful to hear these things (e.g., failure is an important part of the process) even when we know them.

    January 14, 2015

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