Friday, March 9, 2012
A story about bread
There are some similarities between cooking and writing:
--there are usually instructions, but the best outcomes often occur when we break out of the instructions and try something brand new (of course, not a few failures have occurred under the same circumstances);
--both food and stories nourish us
--both food and stories are best shared.
In March of last year I wrote about food stories and made the rash promise to share one food story a month. Hah! Well, it's March again, maybe food-story sharing month, and I want to share a story of my one of mother's best bread recipes--Anadama Bread. It's a New England recipe that got its name, in the accepted legend, when a fisherman cursed his wife for some marital infraction that we aren't quite sure of. Did she make a corn meal porridge and then leave? Did she start a batch of bread and go off larking by the seaside? In any case, the bread is called Anadama Bread and it's key ingredients are corn meal and molasses.
My mother baked several kinds of bread and this was one of her best. If you have a chance to eat this bread warm with butter, you will know food ecstasy. My mom baked Anadama bread for many years for the annual fund-raising auction for the high school. She would stay up all night baking so the bread would be still warm at the time of the event. She made 20 loaves and the auctioneer always started the auction with Alice Briggs's bread. Here's the recipe she used:
Anadama Bread (from Marjorie Standish's Cooking Down East).
2 cups hot water
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup of molasses
2 T. shortening
2 tsp. salt
2-1/4 tsp. dry yeast (or 1 package dry yeast)
1/4 cup lukewarm water
About 6 cups flour
Mix cornmeal and water in a pan. Bring to a boil. Cook for just a couple of minutes. Add molasses, salt and shortening. Cook together until ingredients are well mied. Turn this mixture into a bowl and allow to cool to lukewarm. In the meantime, measure 1/4 cup lukewarm water, dissolve yeast in this. When first mixture is lukewarm add dissolved yeast. Start adding flour. When mixture makes a stiff dough, turn onto a floured surface. Start kneading, add more flour as needed, continue kneading until dough is smooth and glossy. Place dough in a greased bowl. Cover, place in a warm spot, allow dough to rise until doubled in bulk. Poke down and allow to rise once more. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Let dough relax for ten minutes. Make into 2 loaves and place in greased loaf pans. Let rise until doubled in bulk. Bake ten minutes at 45o F., reduce heat and bake about 20 minutes at 325 F. Turn loaves out of pans and cool on rack.
So while we are eating this warm bread, dripping with butter, let's talk writing. My absolute favorite children's book based on cooking is How to Make Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman. And then there's the hilarious and wonderfully rhyming Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord and Janet Burroway.
All this bread and these stories make me want to start with a loaf of bread--and maybe a radish or a parsnip-- and a new notebook and ask what if?