Friday, March 21, 2014

OW Cooks: A Bread Series

Continuing on OW Cooks and freed of my anti-carb notions, I believe I shall do a mini-series on bread. It seems that across both time and cultures, bread is the staple of every diet. It may be loaf bread, biscuits, naan, tortilla, grits, pie crust, pizza crust, hominy, or rice. It may be based on any number of grains from garbanzo beans (Is that a grain? Romans.) to the ubiquitous wheat to corn to black bean brownies. ;) There's a story there.

It may be leavened-- yeast, baking powder, baking soda, fermentation-- or unleavened.

But bread is everywhere. I would even lump mashed potatoes into this. Perhaps mashed potatoes are the bread of my people. I ate them more often than biscuits growing up, but most meals had both. By the end of this, you'll definitely be able to find your way passed/past (VOTE BELOW) Sunbeam (inside joke).

Making the bread of your culture, regardless of the specifics, has for centuries been learned by osmosis. It is a sick old hag of a practice, and I'm sad to see it so. Professional bakers by tradition are men, but I want to look into the bread of your home, which is made usually by a mother figure. Depending on the mother, you may learn this skill and perform this chore promptly at the age of four. You may learn it at thirty-eight, while struggling with your own brood and seeking to find the calm of your childhood. What was different? Was it bread? If your mother was my mother, you learned it because she had to answer the phone. You learned it because you were hungry, and she was reading a romance novel. You learned it because it's something to keep you occupied while she's making the rest of the dinner. You learned it racing back and forth from Granny's house, where your mother was, to your own kitchen (which was your own, even when you're seven) pen and paper in hand, between each step, because one step is all you can handle at a time.
Mamaw and I both have our stories of frustration with this recipe. Pie crust ended in tears for our first attempt(s), decades apart.

She made biscuits and chocolate gravy every Sunday before church-- for anyone who wants to come. Now, she only makes it if someone besides her and Papaw will be there. That is not her biscuit recipe but my attempt at taking measurements from what I learned from my mother. Mamaw cooks her biscuits on the stovetop, mixing it in the same bowl, flipping it onto the same white plastic plate with a blue flower design... cooking in the same pan since I was in preschool. She was at a point in life where she could buy finer things so she bought a good cookware set for her and my mom--before that a heavy black iron skillet.
Friendship bread recipe from Miss JoAnn. Strange how the people who help you as a kid are always Miss/Mister. It's an earned respect, even if it didn't start that way. Although, with some joy I might add, I call many people now who were 'adults' when I was a kid by their first name. Some squirm, but nobody says anything. They don't call me Mrs./Ms. either!

Left: LHJ vegetable terrine. I followed a Ladies Home Journal diet in middle school. Right: Springdale cookies. I also got the Martha Stewart magazine as a Christmas present from Mamaw.

A cornbread recipe I wrote as a kid. Self-rising and plain flour was so confusing. Do they even make pre-mixed/leavened flour anymore? It also seems like they don't make saccharin tablets. I had a tea recipe taped into the lid of the tea canister!-- I bet it's still there.

Dump cobbler which was dessert every night for many years at the beginning of their marriage... with a side of burned biscuits. Sausage balls are a Christmas tradition, more recent ~'94 onward?

I didn't find the pizza sauce recipe which was written on purple paper and while frequently storming into Granny's, which included sugar (so did our spaghetti... and the Hawaiian chicken was mostly candied chicken) or the Rice Krispies for Two which I wrote, after much painful math and my first pre-taught experience with the concept of mathematical proportion, when I decided to make just one for me and my brother each. That is the cookie recipe I made so much. I think the first one was from a yellow Nestle bag and involved peanut butter. This is definitely the one I memorized, though.

I'm not sure that there should be recipes for bread. Perhaps some kinds, but not the most basic... certainly not your every day bread. It all depends on the temperature and humidity which varies from place to place and season to season-- even time of day and location within your household. Bread is a thing you teach yourself, like empathy.

 I propose the following posts:
  • Mashed Potatoes, The Bread of My People
  • Biscuits, The Bread of My People
  • Whole Wheat Loaf Bread, The Bread of Ignatiev South (by Alex)
  • Steel Cut Oats, The Bread of Ignatiev South (by Alex)
  • Cornbread and Mush, The Bread of Those Before Me
  • Rice, The Correct Way(s)
  • "Parkerhouse" Rolls
  • Tortillas
  • Pasta
  • Pizza (if only to guarantee Alex will use the Daiya shreds that I got with my birthday money two-three years ago)
  • Pie

So if you my reader, haven't learned as a child how to make the bread of your people/family, is there no hope? --since there is no recipe. Not at all. Sometimes you eat burned biscuits. Sometimes the dogs eat burned biscuits. Sometimes, involving baking powder, your digestive system gets a reboot.

All in the pursuit of tall fluffy biscuits! lol

You'll have a harder road than if you grew up baking bread, but it's worth it. Then, you can teach your children.

From a Woman Quite Enjoying This Whole Writing and Taking Pictures Thing,


1 comment:

  1. Alex and I disagree (both being English majors) about past/passed in the context above. I say I'm using it in a metaphor as a person physically moving beyond a goal. He cites Therefore, I use both.

    Besides, I think we all know passed will be replaced by past eventually anyway so I might as well give in.