Saturday, April 23, 2011

me too.

While listening to NPR this week I had this unanticipated sense of kinship to the young muslim woman interviewed for "The Hidden World of Girls" piece,  who removed her hijab- after wearing it since she was 17 years-old.  She could remember the exact day she took it off and had the feeling that somehow she was being immodest for showing her long hair- so she tucked it into her sweater so no one would notice it.

Last summer I experienced a similar feeling when I permanently removed my mormon temple garments for the first time after having worn them for sixteen years.  I remember the first morning I walked outside in a tank top and likewise felt that I was being immodest in some way.  Only to discover, much to my relief, that nobody gave it even a second glance.

Other things we had in common:

  • Some had researched their religion's basis for the clothing before deciding the practice to be unsound.
  • One woman felt the clothing had helped develop her into who she was as an individual.
  • Many felt that by wearing the clothing, they were representing their religion- and felt this to be a huge, sometimes unwanted, responsibility.
  • One woman likes to sing.
  • All are Americans.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

april showers

We have had rain and more rain over the past few weeks in this neck of the woods. 
At least we'll have beautiful May flowers to look forward to.  All I can say is that I don't know how the people in Seattle do it.

Mr. Tailor and I were out and about this morning.  I handed him my camera and this is what caught his eye:

 Happy Wednesday.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

bread alone

My paternal grandparents raised seven children during the "baby boom" years of the fifties and sixties.  Grandma was a stay at home mother and did her best to keep her rambunctious brood of four boys and three girls clean, clothed, and fed.  My grandfather worked for the Mesa Public Schools for over thirty years and often money was tight- which meant that Grandma needed to stretch their dollars as far as she could.   In order to do so, she would make her children's clothes (textile jobs weren't outsourced then and fabric was still cheap), plant a vegetable garden, and bake bread- about 6 or more loaves a week.

The story goes that the kids were really sick and tired of Grandma's whole grain bread.  They wanted the white, store bought bread that all of their classmates were eating at school.  There must have been a lot of grumbling, because my grandfather decided to call a family counsel and sit everyone down for a little demonstration.  According to my father, Grandpa took one slice of Grandma's homemade bread and one slice of the store bought bread and scrunched them in his hands.  The kids were all amazed to see the white slice of bread crumble into smithereens and they determined that it was mostly made up of air.  Grandma's slice had all the substance.  It smelled better, weighed more, and didn't completely disappear during Grandpa's experiment.  Clearly the kids were all convinced- never to complain again, right?  Nah.  They still complained.  But the point was made and well taken- at least by the grandaughter who would hear this story twenty or so years later.

I was thinking about my grandmother as I was making bread for my own family today.  We don't get much complaining about homemade bread in this household (probably because everyone knows it's a rare occurrence).  I happened to find a recipe for a seeded french bread out of this cookbook that has really been a pleasure to use.  Not one of the recipes has let me down- including this bread recipe- which I'd like to share with you.
loaves about to come out of the oven

Seeded French Bread
by Jocele Meyer, Fresno, Ohio
from Simply in Season Cookbook

4 cups/ 1 L whole wheat bread flour (I used only 2 cups of ww flour)
2 cups/ 500 ml bread flour
2 Tbsps active dry yeast
2 Tbsp sugar (I like to use Sucanat or honey)
1 tsp salt
Mix together in a large mixing bowl.

2 1/2 cups/ 625 ml hot water
2 Tbsp olive oil
Gradually add.  Mix well.  Add more flour if needed to make a soft dough.  Knead 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic.  Place in a greased bowl, turn to grease both sides, cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in bulk.  Punch down and let rest for 20 minutes.  Divide into 3 parts; shape each into an oblong loaf.  Place on greased baking sheet that has been sprinkled with cornmeal.  Make 4-5 diagonal slices on the top of each loaf.
1 egg
2 Tbsp water
Beat together in a small bowl.  Brush on the loaves.

1-2 Tbsp fennel seeds, sesame seeds or poppy seeds
Sprinkle over each loaf.  Let rise until double.  Bake in preheated oven at 400 f/ 200 C for 20 minutes.

My notes:
I have a Kitchen-aid and especially like to use it when making bread.  Just put on that dough hook and it does all the work for you (well, the "hard labor" of kneading, anyways).  I first combine the yeast, sugar, salt, and warm water into the Kitchen-aid bowl and let it sit until the yeast starts to bubble (just a few minutes).  Then slowly I add the flour until the dough begins to form a ball and looks soft and elastic (I put my Kitchen-aid on 2 while I add about a cup of flour at a time, making sure the flour is all mixed up in the dough before adding more).  Once the dough comes off the hook easily without sticking to it, I take it out of the bowl and knead it for a little bit- ten times or so.  Then I grease a large bowl and put the dough inside and cover with a dish towel until the dough doubles in size.  This could take an half hour or so (the warmer the kitchen, the faster the dough will rise).   

After the dough has risen, punch down (to get all of the gases from the yeast out) and then shape into loaves.  Next, let the dough rest for another 20 minutes.
Brush the egg yoke mixture onto the top of loaves, cut with serrated knife and then slide into the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
You'll see in the picture that I use a stone when baking bread.  We have a couple that we have probably inherited over the years.  For a while, I was rather serious about sourdough bread making.  I'd use the stones sprinkled with cornmeal and also place a pan of water in the oven to achieve the right amount of moisture to crisp up the bread (which you could do with this recipe if you want to experiment).  The stones distribute the heat thoroughly throughout the dough,  but a greased cookie sheet will work just fine, too- if that's what you have on hand.

Bake for 20 minutes.  Take out of the oven and let the loaves cool for a bit.  Then enjoy every mouth-watering bite!

Bon appetite.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

food is the language of love

Mr. Hero's daddy is an amazing cook.  Seriously.  He loves to visit little out of the way restaurants known for their fine cuisine and sniff out the secret ingredients used in their dishes so he can later recreate them at home.  And for the most part, he's pretty damn successful.  And if he can't figure it out, he'll get to know the chefs and ask them forthright.  Which they adore because he also has this charming way with people as well.

For years, Dad has been frequenting a little restaurant in Sedona called, The Elote Cafe, owned by Jeff Smedstad.  If you ever decide to take a trip to this little artsy town known for it's beautiful red rock, this is the place to eat. Knowing that the descriptions of their mouthwatering dishes wouldn't be enough to entice us back to the West, he decided to do the next best thing and send us a care package jam packed with all the necessary ingredients to make Smedstad's food in our own home.  We should be shakin' to the Merengue for the next six months.  No joke.
Mr. Hero unloading the loot.
Penzeys spices: adobo, cumin, chipolte, epazote, chili pwdr,
and more...
a table full of peppers:  pepits natural, chile pequin entero, chili
cascabel, chili arbol entero, chili guajillo entero,
chili pasilla-ancho entero... who knew there
were so many varieties of chiles?
Mr. Hero holding up his autographed
 Elote Cafe cookbook.
Here's what we had for dinner last night.  Inspired by the Mango Y Pepino Salsa found on pg. 102. The rest just fell into place.
Mango y Pepino salsa with corn tortillas, beef, and a good
Yuengling lager.

And here is the recipe for the Mango Y Pepino Salsa:

 4 cups cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 cups diced mango
2 habanero chiles, chopped (we only used one and it was plenty hot)
2 tsps kosher salt
1 Tbsp Mexican oregano
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup orange juice
2 cups diced red onion
Buen Provecho!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

walk this way

For those who would joyously march in rank and file, they have
already earned my contempt, for they were given a large brain by
accident when a spinal chord would have sufficed.
-Albert Einstein

My economics professor gave our class an extra credit assignment recently. He instructed us to answer his questions in a certain format and explained to the class that in order to do well on the paper, we would need to respond in "complete sentences".  Knowing full well that I could do that, I completed the assignment, only to see that I had been docked one of five points for not "following directions".  Apparently, my professor had only wanted us to write one sentence per question and label those sentences a, b, c, d, etc. in an outline format.  I had chosen to use paragraphs- which created more work for him as he graded the papers.  My professor let me know in class, in front of my peers, that I didn't know how to follow directions very well.
I guess he is right.

Some of the "directions" I absorbed as a child from society in general were to go to college, get a degree, get married, have a 2.1 kids, vaccinate those children, send them to school, have a career, buy a house, have a dog, take summer vacations to Disneyland, and the list goes on.  Maybe I'm a slow learner, you know, that naive girl from the mountains who says "yeah" instead of "yes" to everything (I'd had an employer tell me as much when I worked for Wendy's when I was seventeen).  But for whatever reason, I said "yeah" to Mr. Hero after knowing him for a couple of weeks and chose NOT TO FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS.

Instead, I decided that no matter what my sweetheart brought home for our household's income, we would find a way for us to live off it- even if that meant that we lived off of $500 a month while Mr. Hero was working and taking on a full load of college classes to get his degree. (After Mr. Tailor was  born, we both decided that I'd stay at home with our kids full time- which has worked well for us).

When it came time to send five year- old Mr. Tailor off to school for the first time, I couldn't do it. I decided that I'd follow my own directions that my heart was giving me and keep him at home and teach him myself.  What I quickly discovered was that I was learning just as much from Mr. Tailor as he was learning from me- if not more.  We had such success with this home schooling business, that when the other rascals in our clan came along, there was no question that we wouldn't keep them home, too (actually, every single school year, I get this incredible fear that I'm screwing up my children's lives forever and that I should place them in public school where they belong... then I get out my John Holt books and come back to my senses.  My point being that this has not been a fearless journey).

I think about the freedom I have had to pursue my interests.  To read whatever books I've wanted to read.  To knit all those skeins of yarn, and how Mr. Hero hasn't complained as he has seen all those packages arrive via the UPS truck.  He supported me when I came home from the library with an armful of books one day and told him that I thought I should give birth to our third child at home and then proceeded to read to him why (I had done the same thing with the homeschooling decision as well, poor guy).  We went through that experience together and after a four and a half labor and another three hour clean-up of the after-birth on Mr. Hero's part (we had a water birth in our little two bedroom apartment) we both collapsed into bed exhausted and blissfully happy to have met our third baby boy.

While I have had this freedom to mold our family into what I've wanted us to become, my husband hasn't always had the same opportunity.  When we first moved to Pennsylvania, he endured a job for two years that he couldn't stand.  Then he mustered enough courage to leave that job and find another job that he would enjoy- and he hasn't looked back since.  However, the pressure to feed a growing family and keep a roof over our heads has been immense.  And yet he does it anyway.  Every day.

I guess this gets me to thinking about how so much of my freedom has been possible because of his sacrifice for me and the boys.  And even the mere fact that I am back in school right now is because he is paying my college bills to keep me there.  I feel overwhelmed by his love.
So I asked him; "Do you feel free?  Even though you have to go to work everyday to take care of us?"
Can you guess his response?
Yeah, you guessed it.  He does feel freedom.  And why?
Because every night, I like to snuggle up close to him before he falls asleep.  (Actually, transforming myself into a human suction cup would be a more accurate description).  And he claims that that gives him just what he needs.
photo taken by Mr. Tailor

We feel freedom when we love our work.  We feel free when we love our families- when we love ourselves.  And the rest just seems to fall into place- just as it's supposed to.  Sounds kind of like Adam Smith's invisible hand theory we've been discussing in class this term.

I wonder if Smith had a hard time following directions, too?
flickr photo credits:  "this way" from verittyy. Thanks!