Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Quote of the Day

In writing, habit seems to be a much stronger force than either will power or inspiration. Consequentially, there must be some little quality of fierceness until the habit pattern of a certain number of words is established. There is no possibility of saying I'll do it if I feel like it. You start out putting words down and there are three things - you, the pen, and the page, then gradually the three things merge until they are one and you feel about the page as you do about your arm only you love it more than you love your arm.

     - John Steinbeck

Craving Spinach Pies

Today I am craving spinach pies from Jeanette's bakery on Branch Ave in Providence! How long does it take to bike to Branch Ave from Woonsocket? Maybe I can use the bike path; is it completed yet? Jeanette's sells out their fabulous garlic-and-black-olive-infused spinach pies by noon!! They are divine! Heck, maybe I should make them myself. Could Chef Nick over at Beacon sell me a few buckets of whole wheat flour to hold me until payday?

I'm off to walk Honey in the ice-cold sunshine. I've been having too much fun writing letters since the pink and blue dawn sky. Later I'll pedal off to teach ahhhhhhhhhhht for 90 minutes, then bicycle home to honk the long bari tones on Joni songs for our next show. Gotta post a few new recipes too.

St Paddy's Day

Saturday night we had band rehearsal in Ivoryton (named after the tusks brought to the old piano factory.) We cooked corned beef and cabbage and potatoes and parsnips and turnips in my two Presto pressure cookers and it was all so delicious! I gathered up the steaming juices left over and brought it home. The next day it was great heated up over Brussels sprouts and leftover buckwheat noodles! It made an instant gloopy yummy soup.

I also served up a loaf of whole wheat Irish soda bread, one of two loaves I had baked that morning. Bill and I ate most of the second loaf on the way home after rehearsal. Everyone going out of town was being stopped at a police road-check. The state policeman shined his flashlight into the car; "We're just checking everyone to make sure there's no liquor." I said "No, just Irish soda bread, want some?" I showed it to him, but he declined. I really wish he could've had a few bites.

At school on Monday all the kids wore green Mardi Gras beads (St Patrick's Day beads!) and plastic green bowlers. The girls had four-leaf-clover stickers under their right eyes. They are all so cute. I hope they know it. At home, I baked two more of my Irish soda breads, this time using my freshly-made yogurt. Then I pedaled over to Shaw's Meats to see if Jamie Sullivan had any corned beef left. He corns his own beef in the weeks leading up to St Patrick's day, filling barrels of brine with cuts of beef. He dyes the beef red by throwing in a couple of beets!

Simulating Ireland

This is a recipe for Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread, adapted from Marion Cunningham's Fanny Farmer baking book. It's so simple and wholesome - we made two loaves, one to nibble on right away and one to bring to our band rehearsal supper. I like to bake using greased stoneware or greased cast iron but anything will work. Stir, then knead the ingredients for a minute. The dough will be sticky and lumpy but it all is part of the rustic charm. Shape the dough into a ball and squish it down flat and slash an x into it. The dough it will expand and rise in the oven - the baking soda and the tangy yogurt set off a fast chemical reaction like the quick-foaming baking-soda-vinegar volcanoes we all made in 4th grade!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

4 cups whole wheat flour
two teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup milk +1 cup yogurt mixed (or two cups of buttermilk)
(optional - one cup raisins)

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Take the hot loaves off the stone when done and wrap them in a clean, slightly damp kitchen towel. Keep it wrapped for up to eight hours (but have bites as you wish!) As the bread cools, the dampness (apparently simulating Ireland) softens and seasons the bread.

Happy Holy Week!

I am happy because the light is back but the allergens are still dormant.

I am loving teaching the teens in this urban arts high school! The more troubled the kids the more I want to dive in and connect, which always turns them around! The principal is surprised that I want him to give me the most difficult kids. I told him I was looking into working at the prison before he hired me. Now I think I have found teaching as my new calling!

Today I got a gallon of skim milk from the dairy farm to culture my own yogurt in glass mason jars on our boiler, the only warm place in our home in winter. First I mix the milk with nonfat dry milk to boost the nutrition content, then I bring it to 180 degrees in a double boiler, then I cool it to 110 degrees and add the starter, a dollop of yogurt. You can make your own yogurt cheese, too. Pour a cup or two of yogurt into a coffee cone filter and let it drain overnight into a jar. Save the whey for soup or bread, or just drink it straight! Add herbs to the finished yogurt cheese if you like. It is like a healthy Boursin cheese.

Bread Substitute

Bill and I conducted a three-day Science of Bread workshop last week at Beacon. We were the substitutes for Ms Fox's junior science class while she was away. The students and I made a gigantic whole-wheat sourdough molasses cracked-rye cornmeal rolled-oats dough. Bill brought ingredients (for both bread and beer) for the students to see and taste, and we explained what flour is, where wheat comes from, what yeast is, and how fermentation works. We baked the bread in the school's oven, and filled the school with the aroma. Everyone got to have a baby bread the size of a grapefruit!

Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks

Thanks to James Dufficy for sending this. James has been a friend of mine since 4th grade, and is a poet living and writing in London.

All these fellows were there inside
when she entered, utterly naked.
They had been drinking, and began to spit at her.
Recently come from the river, she understood nothing.
She was a mermaid who had lost her way.
The taunts flowed over her glistening flesh.
Obscenities drenched her golden breasts.
A stranger to tears, she did not weep.
A stranger to clothes, she did not dress.
They pocked her with cigarette ends and with burnt corks,
and rolled on the tavern floor in raucous laughter.
She did not speak, since speech was unknown to her.
Her eyes were the colour of faraway love,
her arms were matching topazes.
Her lips moved soundlessly in coral light,
and ultimately, she left by that door.
Hardly had she entered the river than she was cleansed,
gleaming once more like a white stone in the rain;
and without a backward look, she swam once more,
swam towards nothingness, swam to her dying.

     - Pablo Neruda