New Year’s Eve 1969

Richard M. Nixon was about to be inaugurated 37th President of the US.

The Stonewall riot in New York City marked the beginning of the gay rights movement (June 28).

Apollo 11 astronauts—Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., —took the first walk on the Moon.

But frankly, none of that had mattered much to me, a new bride. By the time New Year’s Eve rolled around, I was full of romantic ideas of how my husband of three months and I should spend our first December 31 as a couple.

I imagined us lying on the floor of our one bedroom apartment, feeding to each other  freshly baked loaves of Mrs. Rhodes Bread which we would slather  with butter and jam. There wouldn’t be an inch our apartment that wasn’t filled with the exquisite aroma of fresh bread.

A restaurant dinner was not part of our plan that evening; we’d beunknownen married only three months and money was tight. Besides, we hardly got a chance to be together what with Dean’s working nights and me working days.

Champagne? Probably not. I dislike anything
bubbly. Most likely scotch…money may have been tight but we still hadn’t spend all our wedding gift money.

Our sparsely decorated tree was still up though dried needles were tumbling down as fast as the snow outside our sheet-draped window. Still, it was lovely to sit near the branches and look up at the two strings lights we could afford, a glass of scotch in one hand and a slice of bread in the other.

But it wasn’t long before too much freshly baked bread and a couple of shots of scotch let me know that my “dinner” plan was not very wise.

I turned hot, then sweaty, then….OMG! Let me in the bathroom…NOW!

Not one of our more elegant evenings.

I haven’t been able to face a glass of scotch since. On the other hand I may try Mrs. Rhodes again. After all, it’s been 47+ years.

white-bread-bake

Thoughts While Making Bread

What would (my ancestors) have thought if they could see me throwing ingredients into an electric mixer, hitting the “on” button, grabbing a cup of coffee, and 10 minutes later, placing bread dough on the counter to rise?

This is another rerun. I first published it in December of 2008. It seems even more relevant today.

the-baker
I’d like to open this with the phrase, “I spent the morning making bread from scratch.” The truth of the matter, though, is that the bread making took me all of five minutes. My much-used copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, my Cuisinart® and a well stocked cupboard will yield enough dough for me to bake four one-pound loaves of brioche over the next week or so. This is an excellent cookbook and I use it often. But it’s not where my thoughts roam when my need to create takes me to my kitchen.
Rather, my fantasies wander to those people who came before me…not necessarily my ancestors (although their images are there at the periphery of my imagination), but rather to all the folks who baked bread “back in the day.”
Willa Cather wrote so profoundly of women who endured brutal Midwestern winters in sod huts. What would they have thought if they could see me throwing ingredients into an electric mixer, hitting the “on” button, grabbing a cup of coffee, and 10 minutes later, placing bread dough on the counter to rise?
Let’s take the image further. I’ll be baking Christmas cookies later today. Ground walnuts? I’ll whirl a handful in my electric grinder. Flour on the floor? I’ll suck it up with my vacuum cleaner. Sticky pans and bowls? My dishwasher will take care of that mess.
I didn’t grow my own wheat to be processed into flour. I didn’t spend hours hand-churning butter. The foods I get to make today are the miracles of technological innovation, each new idea the result of a creative problem solver. I think about them and I give a nod of thanks to all those farmers and cooks and bakers and engineers who came before me, all those women and men who over the centuries who turned the creation of a meal into a creative endeavor.
And as I take out another pound of butter for those Christmas cookies I’ll make this afternoon, I think, too, about the growing numbers of people who don’t have access to a brioche or homemade cookies…who don’t even have access to the basics. I’ll make those cookies today, but I’ll forego the other four recipes I was planning. Neither my family nor I need all those calories, and if I forego them, I can place just that much more in the food shelf collection box.
Have I inspired you to do the same? I sure hope so.