Things I Know 327 of 365: The sweet spot is in the browning, not the burning

A life lesson from baking.

Yesterday’s cookie recipe included the following direction:

To make icing, melt the butter in a skillet over low heat and swirl the pan over the heat for about four-five minutes until butter begins to brown. Be careful, you don’t want to burn the butter—you just want to brown it! It will happen fast and when it does, immediately take the browned butter off the stove and pour into a mixing bowl.

My beliefs about butter were challenged. I’ve whipped butter, cut it in, and melted it. This is to say nothing of the more pedestrian spreading of butter. To my mind, I’d pushed butter to its limits.

This was new.

Melt it, heat it, take butter to the brink. The key, don’t burn the butter. Watch for the line separating making something new and making something useless.

That idea appeals to me.

Think differently about what can be done, what things and people are capable of, but remain mindful of the burning. For Icarus, the lesson came with flight. For me, it came with a cookie recipe.

Let’s Plan

This semester, I’m teaching a senior English elective class called Sexuality and Society in Literature.
Our first text of the year was Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex along with several supporting documents including Helen Fisher’s TED Talk “The Brain in Love.”
The idea for the outline of the class is to take a look at sexuality and society in lit throughout the different phases of life. The idea behind reading Oedipus first was to look at the idea of how some society’s have interpreted our course in “love” prior to birth.
Rather than wrapping unit plans around a particular book as has been the practice of English teachers for time in memorium (with the possible exception of short story and poetry units), I’m approaching planning by theme. Oedipus looked like this, and I wasn’t satisfied.
I find myself asking “What do I want them to learn?” vs. “What do I want them to learn from this book?”
I know it seems like a simple thing. Look around, though. It’s not how most English teachers are planning.
Speaking of, here’s the point of all this.
This is my sorta blank unit plan for the “Childhood” unit which is next. If you’re reading this, then I’m looking for your input.
What can we build?