The Mad Hatter
Curiouser and Curiouser
Recently, I was on the short-list--I don't think they had enough people show interest to ever have a long-list--for the editor's job on a carriage driving magazine . The organization's Executive Director interviewed me, via telephone. Among her many questions was one that struck a nerve, my pleasure nerve: "Dave, I don't get it," she said. "You're retired. You got the world by the a**; why do you want this job?"
Without a moment's thought I answered her. "I'm seventy-two," I told her, "and I'm as curious today as I was when I was five. However, now I know there's a lot more to be curious about than I did then." Despite this brilliant answer, I didn't get the job. ( I do, however, write for the magazine.)
Among my many curiouslties is bread: eating it, buying it, storing it, serving it, and, most of all, baking it. I baked my first bread in a frying pan, over an open fire, in Northeast Pennsylvania. I was twelve, a Boy Scout, and taking one of the tests for the Cooking Merit Badge; the Boy Scout Handbook called the bread "Bannock". My finished Bannock's bottom was burnt, its innards were doughy, its outside crunchy and dense. It was delicious.
In my teens I watched my little Welsh grandmother bake bread, and rolls, and near the holidays date pinwheels, Welsh cakes (a fried cookie), and currant bread. On birthday's she made tortes from stacks of froice (welsh crepes) When I earned my driving license I delivered her makings to church bake sales, Saturday morning breakfasts, and a few regular customer who ended each week with a loaf or two of grandma's white or whole wheat. She charged fifty-cents a loaf--expensive, but worth it. I offered to help her, but she only smiled and kept kneading. Her small hands set a beat; her eyelids nearly closed. No way would she share that soul-mending meditation.
Married with children, on weekends, or home from the sea, I'd bribe my children with homefried doughnuts, white bread ala grandma, and near the holidays I continued the tradition: Welsh cakes, and date pinwheels where, and are, my signature offering in our commuity's Christmas cookie exchange. My children fled the nest, my months at sea grew, and my curiousity turned to new hobbies, among them beer brewing, and wine making. I just can't get away from things fermenting.
A decade retired, I have the the time now to do it all: cook, bake, brew, vint (is that a verb?) write, watch the Science Channel, and occasionally nap. And, curiouser and curiouser, my vocabulary, and knowledge grows and mutates; e.g, hydration, proof, and retard have taken on new meanings; wort, sparge, rack, sourdough, mirepoix, and King Aurthur populate conversations. I'm expected to show up at community potluck dinners with a bottle and a loaf; I've been sent home to fetch when I haven't. Until I found The Fresh Loaf I'd no idea this baking virus I suffer is endemic.
This is fun; I've never blogged before. If you chose to waste your time reading my mutterings DON'T expect daily entries. I'll drop a recipe now and then. Any one interested in Welsh cakes?