It hurts my brain.

On the menu: Key Lime Pie

Let’s discuss cognitive ability. I am an aspiring academic, after all.

Key lime pie ~ documenting our dinner.

Why is it so hard for me to learn about how the landscape affects pollinator efficiency, and so easy for me to learn about how to freeze beans? I have a deep interest in both topics, and really, I don’t think about much other than my research and my culinary exploits. Well, that makes me sound cold. I think about Kevin, my family, and my friends. I do my best to keep up on the news, which usually leads to me reading the latest celebrity gossip.

Key lime pie ~ documenting our dinner.

But back to my point: my brain hurts after reading a couple of paragraphs of a research paper. I can read tens of blog posts and be ready for more. Perhaps it is the density of the writing: not that bloggers aren’t intelligent, just that they write in a conversational tone that is easy to read and comprehend. There’s a sentence in my thesis that reads: “Principal Components Analysis (PCA) is a multivariate statistical method that groups correlated variables into components to reduce redundancy. ” Who wants to read anymore of that?! I don’t, and that’s my writing!

Key lime pie ~ documenting our dinner.

I’m often frustrated because I have to read, and read, and read some more in order to a) learn about what’s been accomplished in my field of study and b) stay on top of what’s being accomplished in my field of study. I read a paper the other day that had been cited by nine other papers in 2013 alone. It is the first week of March, friends. I’m still reading papers from 2007 most of the time! What really gets me is that I have a difficult time retaining a lot of what I read, which is bad news when you have to explain a paper to your advisors or write a detailed document explaining how you could use this information in a research project.

Key lime pie ~ documenting our dinner.

Speaking of writing a detailed document, it’s much easier for me to write here than it is for me to write my dissertation proposal. It’s probably for the same reason that I read blogs more easily than I read papers. It’s a bit therapeutic when I work for 5 hours and write 340 words, then head to the blog and write 350 words in 15 minutes. But frustrating: where is that output when I’m working? Why is it so hard to write at work?

Key lime pie ~ documenting our dinner.

I feel like I’m constantly at my cognitive capacity. Is there such a thing? I’m learning so much that I can’t possibly keep track of it all. I have so many things to do that it’s hard to focus on writing when I need to be reading, or I have homework (Homework! The bane of my existence.) My brain is always buzzing. But there’s always more to learn. My curiosity for this stuff is insatiable, even when it hurts my brain to read or write another word.


But there’s always pie. The promise of a sweet treat at the end of the day always keeps me moving forward. Sunday mornings are always for baking, and I eagerly anticipate reaching this point in my week because it allows me to take a break and focus on one thing. Well, two things–I have to take presentable photos while I bake. I finally had the chance to play with Key limes, and although juicing a ton of them wasn’t the most pleasant, the end result was so, so wonderful. The pie is punchy with floral citrus but tempered by sweetened condensed milk. The well-balanced flavor is complemented by the well-balanced texture of smooth filling and crumbly crust. And, once you’ve juiced your Key limes, it is so simple to put together.

Key lime pie ~ documenting our dinner.

Key Lime Pie
from the Joy of Cooking

I chose not to make a meringue for my pie–I wanted to get as much Key lime goodness as  possible!

1 recipe Graham Cracker Crust, see below
One 15 oz can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup Key lime juice (from 12-14 Key limes)
3 teaspoons Key lime zest
Whipped cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Whisk sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, Key lime juice and zest together until blended. Pour into prepared crust. Bake the pie for 15-17 minutes, until the center looks set but the pie quivers when the pan is jiggled. Cool completely on a rack, then refrigerate. Serve with whipped cream.

Graham Cracker Crust
from the Joy of Cooking

1 1/2 cups fine graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine all ingredients and pat them into a 9 inch pie plate. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool a bit before filling.

This entry was posted in Dessert, Fruity, Pies, Sweet Treats, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to It hurts my brain.

  1. Hannah says:

    A beautiful post, Brianne! Your photos are stunning and I seriously want a slice of that pie. I agree, no meringue – just that bright Key lime taste. You are indeed stretching your mind in many directions…I’m glad you can step into your kitchen and channel some energy into creating delicious treats for all of us! I hope you can relax with some pie this weekend, which is sure to restore and energize.

    • Brianne says:

      Thank you, Hannah! I couldn’t get enough of that bright Key lime taste. I haven’t decided what to bake this weekend yet. Something will come to mind today, I’m sure.

  2. shannon says:

    Look at that lime filling go!:) Girl, i hear you. I was an english major. I did academic writing, although certainly not at the graduate+ level. Even if it’s the thing you’re interested in most, it can be tedious, tiresome, and it will make you want to physically run for cover. I usually took a break when the words actually started running together. I admire your ability to balance all your school stuff and even WANT to write the blog; that’s incredible, and i don’t know if i could do it.

    • Brianne says:

      Run for cover, indeed! I took a nap at my desk yesterday and felt kind of badass. It was just a 15 minute nap, then I woke up and got a couple of hours of productivity out of it! I always want to write the blog. Finding the time can drive me a bit crazy, but there are bloggers who have full time jobs and kids and crank out amazing posts twice a week! If they can do it, so can I!

  3. carey says:

    I often think that the feeling that we MUST do something (even if it’s something we enjoy) just makes the process of learning/reading/writing/doing so much more difficult. It’s like the subconscious is reacting negatively to something that isn’t being done entirely through free will. I’m also saying this as someone who reacts so stubbornly to being told to do anything. (When I was little and I was really into the Redwall novels, my parents told me I should read the Lord of the Rings series too, because I’d like them a lot. I immediately had a mental “don’t tell me what to do!” reaction, and STILL have not read them to this day.)

    I can never remember if Johnny’s favorite type of pie is lemon meringue or key lime. I think it’s key lime…maybe. I hope it is, because I’d much rather make this than deal with meringue! (: And a condensed milk and citrus custard filling just sound so dang delicious.

    • Brianne says:

      Ugh, maybe that’s precisely my problem. Funny story: my mom told me to read the Redwall novels, so I tried. I wasn’t into them. Weird! Also, the guy wasn’t very into this pie. He loves all pie, but blueberry with crumble on the top is his favorite. Meringue is a mixer breaker for me; it was fun to make, but it will be a while before I attempt it again. And, lately I’ve been a bit obsessed with sweetened condensed milk. But we don’t have a churchkey can opener, which irks me to no end when I bake with it.

    • Emma says:

      Redwall was way cooler than LOTR anyway. Did LOTR let you talk mole-speak to yourself out loud as you read? Think not!

      • Brianne says:

        I just read The Hobbit, and you know I read everything in Hobbit, dwarf, and elf voices. And accents! Also: Gandalf. He had the boomingest voice. And since my mother made me watch Watership Down when I was a kid (yes, they made it into an animated film), I can’t read books from the perspective of animals. Animal Farm gave me nightmares in high school.

  4. It’s so funny you say that, I’m having the same problem with a book I’m reading! It’s “American Colonies” and it’s about the entire history of all colonization attempts of the American continent. I love history, and the book is interesting, it is just written in a really dense and matter-of-fact way that only allows me to read a maximum of 10 pages a night before falling asleep. It’s so funny how reading blog posts can go by in a snap with full comprehension, but reading something that’s written in a more technical way becomes soooo much more of a concentrated effort.

    But you’re a great writer here, so I am sure your thesis is written just as well! I wouldn’t mind reading it if you ever wanted to send it over, I am so fascinated by what you’re studying!

    • Brianne says:

      I’ve tried to read epic history books that I thought were really interesting, only to struggle through the first 50 pages and then give up. So strange how that works! You like my writing?! Oh, that makes my day! I worry a lot about how readers perceive my writing–here and at work. Thank you so much!

      And if I ever produce anything presentable, I’ll be sure to send it your way:)

  5. Emma says:

    You know what’s got me at cognitive capacity? Your super sweet gif image. Yeah dog, that’s what I’m talking about. Let that filling sliiiiiiide out of the bowl! No but really I’ve been watching that image for close to five minutes.

    I could read blog posts from you about PCA all friggin day long. No joke!

    • Brianne says:

      Thanks, dog! Actually, I usually spell it dawg. I gotta get a little giffy with it now and again. You know, keep things fresh?

      I gave my defense seminar for a class last semester, and a student actually asked me to explain PCA! No professor asked me to do that when I defended my damn degree! I started blubbering about it being a multivariate statistical method that puts things into multivariate space, and then I think I said something about eigenvalues before the professor of the class started explaining it for me. Said professor? My PhD advisor. She was on my MS committee. GAH!

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