The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Therapy by baking

pmccool's picture

Therapy by baking

I took the day off from work today with the stated purpose of looking for a car for my wife.  The company has provided me with a leased vehicle but that leaves my wife stuck at the house most days.  With a 45-60 minute commute in each direction, it isn't practical for her to take me to work and then use the car for the rest of the day.

Every country has its bureaucratic quirks (I cringe when I think of what expats from other countries must encounter when they arrive in the U.S.) and South Africa has its own.  One of those quirks being that you must acquire a particular form from the government before purchasing a car.  After standing in line 2 hours, we finally reached the window; only to be told that the form would be issued one month after filing the application and that that particular office would be closing by the end of January, so we would need to make our application at a different office.  After some gnashing of teeth (ours, not the clerk's), we set off in search of the other office.  We started to make a turn at an intersection and were T-boned by an oncoming car.  Both of us thought that the way was clear; our view of the on-coming car must have been obstructed by a stopped vehicle on the opposite side of the intersection.  My wife's side of the car took the impact, just behind her door.  The force was strong enough to send our car spinning into the guardrail, thereby destroying the front of the vehicle, too.  Since my wife's door was wedged shut, the firemen cut off the door before she could be extricated.  Fortunately, after a number of x-rays and a thorough examination at the hospital, she was pronounced well enough to be released and a co-worker took us home.  She will be very sore for a few days but the doctor thinks that some light therapy will soon reduce the effects of the mild whiplash she experienced.  All in all, we are very blessed that a potentially fatal encounter has only left us shaken and bruised.  The other driver suffered a cut on his forehead but didn't speak of any other injuries.

Everyone working the accident scene was very professional and competent, from the police to the paramedics to the firement; even the tow truck driver.

My therapy is already in progress.  I have a batch of Reinhart's N.Y. Deli Rye under construction.  I think the onions have cooled enough to stir into the starter, so I'll do that and head to bed.



RobynNZ's picture

Goodness Paul. What a shock. So glad that neither of you were physically injured. While you point out being in a foreign country makes for 'interesting' bureaucracy, coping with an accident in foreign parts has its own challenges (I know!). So glad you had managed to gather those flours recently so you could set to and make a bread you like. Trust that the familiarity of working with the dough and checking in on TFL helped you relax and that you got a decent sleep.

Best wishes, Robyn

avatrx1's picture

Before you get too comfortable, remember that those injuries that don't hurt at the time have a delayed effect.  Trust me -- I know.  I lifted something too heavy last week and that was OK, then went to bend down and to the side to pick up something I dropped and heard a'pop'.  It immediately hurt, but then as the day went on I was fine.

This week while working at our printing shop - I reached a point where I could barely move because of whatever I did last week.  I think I need to buy stock in Advil.  We're small business owners living in the US and had to give up our health insurance because it just got too expensive.  20% increases every birthday for each of us.  We're too young for medicare. - kids are grown so we're too old for kid care which also covers the parents. Never filed a claim so not sure why it's so expensive but I digress...........

I hope you don't experience the 'after' effect.  Best wishes to you and your wife.  Be sure to let us know how your rye bread works out.  I just cooked a corned beef and could use some -other than store bought - rye.





Janknitz's picture

Oh, I am so sorry about your accident!

There is something about the total attention mixing a dough takes, and the feeling of warm living dough in your hands with it's particular smells and the movements to shape it which are very therapuetic.  Not to mention eating a slice of freshly baked bread--the ultimate in comfort food. 

Almost nothing is better at relieving my stress--the world just melts away when I'm "in the bread zone".  I hope the zone helps you through this tough time. 

DonD's picture

I am sorry to hear about the accident but glad to know that both you and your wife are fine. The physical therapy of kneading dough and the mental therapy of eating a good loaf of bread should have you in top shape in no time.


ehanner's picture

What a scary situation for you both, on many levels. I hope neither of you find more serious injuries in the coming days. Some times these things take weeks to show them selves. Thanks for sharing Paul. Please let your bride know we are thinking of you both.


SylviaH's picture

Baking sounds like the very best therapy after all you and your wife have been through.  I'am glad you are both doing well and are safe after such a terrible and frightening day.  Thank you for sharing, Paul.


LindyD's picture

Am so sorry, Paul, to hear about the crash.  Thank goodness neither you nor your wife suffered serious injuries; I hope you wife feels better in the morning and is back to normal quickly.  

I imagine both of you are going to feel pretty stiff and sore for a couple of days.

Despite our best efforts, accidents happen.  Be well.

proth5's picture

Sorry to hear of your very, very bad day.  Hope you and your wife feel better soon.

Uh, I wrecked the company car, too during my time in the UK. Hopefully the insurance works in South Africa as well as it did in the UK. 

Some of the things that I have been told about the consequences for traffic violations in Japan scare me...

Take care and Happy Baking!

Marni's picture

So sorry about the accident.  It is so unnerving to be be in an accident, even when everything turns out well. 

The baking followed sounds like great therapy.

I hope you and your wife continue to be well with no further troubles.


dmsnyder's picture

It sounds like the accident was the culmination of an awful day. I'm happy to hear there were no serious injuries.

I hope your bread baking is healing.


pmccool's picture

My wife is very sore this morning and has some spectacular bruises from the seatbelt.  Others will no doubt surface from deeper tissues in the next few days.  So far, I'm only experiencing a mild stiffness and two or three minor bruises.  

We were in a Toyota Corolla.  My hat is off to the engineers and autoworkers behind that car.  The side airbag deployed exactly as designed, no doubt saving my wife from a head injury.  The seatbelts held us in place and the crumple zones crushed as intended to absorb some of the forces from the collision.  There was only minor intrusion into the passenger compartment by the other car (an older VW Golf, which was way better than something bigger and heavier).  No one is going to be driving the vehicle again, but it functioned superbly to protect the occupants.

The other impressive thing was that we had a MacBook in a backpack style bag in the car's trunk.  After all the banging around that it got from the collision, it started up immediately after we got back home and turned it on.  My wife is using it right now, as a matter of fact.

The bread, by the way, is now in the pans for the final fermentation.  I elected not to add the commercial yeast called for in the formula.  It's a bit cooler this morning, so the fermentation is slower but, hey, I'm not going anywhere today.  Our housekeeper is taking a dim view of putting onions in bread, so it will be interesting to see her response once she tastes it.  She's going to be learning a lot of new things from these crazy Americans over the next couple of years.


Janknitz's picture

Are you up for a funny story about an ex pat driving accident?

My husband worked for an Israeli owned company doing business in Hilo, Hawaii.  The Israelis who were there for only short periods of time got rental cars instead of company cars.  All of the rental companies forbid renters to drive the rental cars over the "saddle road" between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea because this is a narrow and windey road.  Of course, the Israeli guys always seemed to think that this rule (and others like speed limits) didn't apply to them. 

So one Israeli guy was driving way too fast on the saddle road and (suprise!)  rolled the car.  The roof was caved in, but he was unhurt and the car was somehow still driveable.  He drove it back to the rental agency in Hilo and demanded another car because "something is wrong with the car you gave me."

Can you say "chutzpah"?

I hope you both feel better very soon. 

dmsnyder's picture

But I'm feeling better.

That's a hilarious story. I'm going to share it, with due credit to the source.


pmccool's picture

so yes, I guess we were up for the story.  Thank you, Janknitz.


Paddyscake's picture

It must be mandatory that MVD's must try your patience to the Nth degree! Geesh!

I'm happy that you are both without serious injury, but sorry for your discomfort in the days to come.

We are fans of Toyota, which we both drive. It's nice to hear the engineers did such a good job. Hopefully, we will never have to find out for ourselves.

Can't wait to hear how the rye comes out. That is one recipe I haven't tried yet.

Hope you are both feeling better!


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

And what a way to do it!  I suppose you now get to start at the bottom of the ex-pat motor pool.  Look at it this way... you won't have to think about vacuuming when loading 50 lbs bags of flour!

Hope you have a little cognac and cotton balls around to dab on those bumps and scratches.


pmccool's picture

That's a new one to me!  No wonder the cost of medical care is spiraling!  I think there may be a bottle of brandy on hand; would that do?  Wouldn't it be more effective as a pain reliever if it were taken orally, rather than as a topical application?  ;-)

The temporary car that was delivered on Friday is a bare-bones VW Citi with a manual transmission.  And having to shift left-handed is going to improve my traffic safety?!  Luckily, I did remember about pushing down on the shift lever to get to Reverse gear.  Would it surprise you to learn that this group of American expats is having an "unusually" high accident rate, according to our corporate experts in such matters?  It would be interesting to see how the experts would fare if they were on the ground here...


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Many accidents happen in a new unfamiliar location, add the left/right switch and getting used to different car and local driving patterns (each country seems to have their own) small variations in road construction and maybe a foreign language to boot, it all adds up to more risk. In generalizing, the driver has more distractions and in paying attention to everything, reactions can take longer to process.   We have often had local drivers until we understood the nuances and learned what not to look at.  An automatic would certainly be helpful as shifting is one less thing to think about.

I don't know anyone who would waste good cognac on cotton...  It was a safe suggestion that painted a subliminal picture.  So rub some into those muscle cramps.  ;)


pmccool's picture

As is usually the case, the NY Deli Rye from Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice made some fabulous ham sandwiches, which we enjoyed for lunch today.  The only thing missing was some dill or fennel seeds in the bread, which my wife prefers to caraway.  The crumb was remarkably smooth and uniform, except for the pieces of onion studding it, remaining firm but without any toughness or dryness.  Betty, our housekeeper, braved a bite (she initially thought that the notion of putting onions in bread was very strange) and then decided that she would like a sandwich, too.  So, another convert to rye bread.  Since I have blogged about this bread previously, I'll skip the formula and process details.

A picture, below, shows the crumb of the bread, on the left:

And, to give a bit more context for the picture, here is the setting:

This is the left-hand side of the braai (grill, for the non-Afrikaans speakers out there) at the house we are leasing.  No, I haven't figured out what the grinder was used for; it's purely decorative in this location.  The stainless steel sheet at the lower right-hand corner of the photo is the cover for the built-in gas grill.

The loaf of bread to the right of the rye bread is Max's Loaf, from Bernard Clayton's Complete Book of Breads.  It is essentially a 100 % honey whole wheat bread that incorporates 1/2 cup of toasted sunflower seeds in each loaf.  The recipe called for coating the top of the loaf (after forming but prior to placing it in the pan) with an egg wash, then rolling it in another cup of raw sunflower seeds.  I decided to skip that step, since I figured the ones inside were the ones that I was interested in, anyway.  I did experiment with a new (to me) brand of stone-ground whole wheat flour called "Krackley Wheat" which is very coarsely ground, containing kernel fragments and whole kernels of wheat.  If it were rye, we'd probably call it pumpernickel.  Seeing the coarseness of the grind, I decided to autolyse part of the flour.  Assuming that I make Max's Loaf again, I would probably push the autolysed portion of the flour to something north of 50% of the total.  It seemed to have a very beneficial effect on the dough.  The cultured buttermilk I used in the recipe was nearly the consistency of yogurt, so I wound up adding about 1/3 cup of water to the dough (note that I had doubled the recipe quantities to make 2 loaves), even though I stopped 1 cup short of the recommended quantity of flour.  Nevertheless, the loaves rose up tall and proud.  I'm interested to see and taste the crumb but it may be a couple of days before I cut into one of the loaves.

Not pictured, a batch of sourdough English muffins, from the KAF 200th Anniversary Cookbook.  Oddly enough, I probably achieved the best results in my history of working with this particular recipe.  Maybe I really am adjusting to my new environment...

Excluding Thursday, it's been a very therapeutic weekend, indeed.


AnnaInMD's picture

So good to hear that no breaks were incurred.  Be careful with that whiplash, it tends to rear its ugly head several months later (personal attest and that of my attorney BIL).

Speedy recovery to you both,