Friday, December 14, 2001

It's raining. And my pansy blossoms are rotting, and I wonder what I did wrong.

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Middle school sucks. In case you don't remember. There you are, on the cusp of puberty, discovering the power of cruelty. You can attract attention by having the wrong body, the wrong hair, the wrong jokes... and you wonder, is it me? Are they really the normal ones, and I'm weird?

I'm hugging my daughter a lot lately. Helplessly. Because I couldn't cope in my day and I have no strategies to give her. "Endure. Someday you'll be a grownup" is pretty useless when you're 11.

My God, I have become Martha Stewart. Yesterday I was killing time while the house was being shown (buy my house! Please! So I can get out of the South!), and I wandered into an antique store.

I came out with a "set" (actually two related pieces plus an intruder) of Danish-modern silverplate. That lovely clean '50s design. This is a teak-handled gravy boat and a matching small dish, both in a round-shading-to-square shape and unornamented, with a Danish crowned mark on the bottom. Almost certainly the silverplate mark, because there's no purity number and the hallmark isn't the official pure-silver hallmark. They came with a Danish-modern-style Gorham teak-and-silverplate butterdish.

I polished them and put them on the top shelf of the china cabinet. They're very pretty.

Stop me before I take up découpage.

Sunday, December 09, 2001

The yeast was dead to begin with.

Liquid-helium dead. Opossum-by-the-side-of-the-road dead. Bo-Derek's-career dead. In short, unlikely to arise screaming for vengeance or brains or the head of Alfredo Garcia.

Yr humble corresp'nt was ignorant of its condition. Therefore did she cheerfully measure flour, milk, egg, butter, forbidden herbs gathered by eldritch moonlight in a desecrated monastery, and, alas, the departed yeast. And mixed. And kneaded. And wrapped the whole tenderly in a linen cloth (okay, Saran Wrap) and nestled it in a warm place to rise.

Half an hour later, the lump of dough was the same size and shape as when it had been dragged untimely into this mortal kitchen. Half an hour later yet, no change. At which point your most obedient hied her to the kitchen, took out a Pyrex measuring cup, inserted thereunto warm water, sugar, and another teaspoon of the beige (hmmm.... sensing a pattern here...) powder.

And, lo, the water neither foamed nor sizzled nor formed little clots of floating goo.

And the writer was most vexed. And possibly even said "Darn." And sent forth her noble spouse to hunt for fresh yeast, that which possessed life and vigor.

And he returned bearing the mighty microbe. Which, when mixed with water and sugar, bubbled mightily. Wherefore the cook did mix the yeasty water, the lifeless dough, and more flour, and knead it until once again did it resemble dough instead of sticky liquid goo.

Eftsoons began the dough to rise. And it was good.

Ridiculously Easy Poppyseed Roll Bread (from King Arthur Flour)

Combine 3 cups all-purpose flour (King Arthur Unbleached really is tastier and prettier), 1 1/2 teaspoons yeast, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 large egg, 3/4 cup milk, 3 tablespoons butter. Mix and knead until satiny and elastic.

(Hearty apologies to unAmerican readers. My good kitchen scale is in storage, or I'd give you the gram equivalents.)

Let dough rise until doubled in bulk. Punch dough down. Let it rest for 10 minutes, then roll into a rectangle approximately 12 inches by 16 inches. (Death to hegemonistic American measures!)

Open a can of poppyseed or almond filling. (I'm guessing this is about 1 1/2 American cups; the can says net weight 354 grams.) Spread it on the dough, leaving an inch free on all sides. Roll the dough the long way (making a long thin roll) and seal both ends. (If you can; I can't, and it always spills out on the baking sheet. Oh, well.) Let rest on a baking sheet for about 1/2 hour. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. (Oh, the shame! Oh, the insularity!) Bake roll for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Vow to resist the oppression of decadent Yankee cultural influence, and go reread Elizabeth David's Bread And Yeast Cookery.