March 16Posted on: March 17, 2013
Once again we had brought in some slushy sap and made a small pot of coffee with it. Fresh maple sap with fresh ground coffee; can’t get better than this. All this ran thru my mind as we went thru the process and the motions of plugging things back into the grid, setting the cell phones, the 4G, the Bluetooth and the Tablet on their chargers; powering up the satellite receiver on the TV and setting the clocks. How quickly we are reverting to those old ways. I felt saddened by this for some reason. I should be glad, shouldn’t I? Things are on the way to being back to normal, right? But was I happy with the old normal? I think I almost preferred my new normal. It was less stressful in some ways, and I think I was definitely happier, or at least more content.
It’s Saturday, no school for the kids. I called Jason… yes, called on the phone. Wow, does that feel strange. I made arrangements for Emilee to come over while I made bread; she’s ten, it’s time she learned how. I’m hoping Jason never finds Norene’s electric bread maker! Some things are just better by hand. Another interesting revelation: I keep mentally deferring to Jason as being in charge over there, where Eric is actually the older of the two. Yes, very interesting.
“So, Emi, did your mom ever make fresh bread?” I asked as she stood there grinning, in the blue denim apron her uncle had made me when he was just a few years older than she was. I had required both boys to take a home ec class when they entered high school; Jason chose to make me something in the sewing segment. My four ‘requirements’ had served them both well: home economics, drafting, typing and shop. They both could cook and do basic sewing; they both follow patterns and blue prints when building things; they could do many basic household repairs; and typing, it’s the way of the world with computers. Eric even called me one time from a training session while he was still in the military, to thank me for making him take typing. Wonderful memories for me.
“Only once, and she used the bread machine Grandpa Jim gave her,” Emilee said wistfully, stirring the flour with her finger. “It tasted really good!” she smiled, but I could tell she was thinking of her mom.
“Well, I’m going to show you how to make the same yummy bread without using a machine. Would you like that?” How do I get her away from thoughts of her mom; a mom she might not see for a long time? When she nodded vigorously, I remembered how resilient young children were.
“Well first we put a cup of warm water in this big bowl; the water can’t be too hot, but not too cold; here, stick your finger in to feel the temperature. You did wash your hands didn’t you?” I smiled down at her as she nodded. I couldn’t help but think of a framed picture hanging on my wall: Emilee at the age of eight, set into a picture of me, at the same age; except for the one picture in color, the other in black and white, we looked like twins; it was uncanny. “How does the water feel?”
“Warm, but not hot,” she answered. We then added two teaspoons of sugar and the same of yeast, and then she stirred it. We waited until it started to bubble and foam, then she added a teaspoon of salt and a quarter cup of oil, measuring it all carefully. Then it was a quarter cup of instant milk and one cup of flour. I let her do all the stirring. I don’t know how she got flour on her nose and on her chin, but there it was, and my heart swelled. We added flour until she couldn’t stir it anymore, and then I took over. Emi added flour a bit at a time while I stirred, until the dough was stiff. I sprinkled some flour over the top and worked it into a sticky ball with my hand, while she put more flour on the counter top. I dumped the dough into that and scraped the bowl.
“Are you ready for the fun part?” I asked. Her eyes got big. “Watch how I do this.” And I started kneading it, first pushing it with the heel of my hands, then pulling it back with my fingers, and then let her try. She got the hang of it pretty quickly. I was pleased. “Keep going while I clean the bowl.” I washed the big bowl and put a splash of oil in it, as she punch and beat the bread dough. We then put it into the bowl, turning it so the oil coated it and covered the big yellow bowl with a sack towel to rise.
Emi and I took a walk outside to watch John work on the syrup. He had collected and cooked down twenty gallons; the sap in the pot was turning darker all the time. I could tell John was getting excited over the prospect of doing his first maple syrup. By the time Emi and I collected eggs, the bread was ready for folding into a loaf, and its second rise.
“Why does it take so long, Nahna?” Ah, the impatience of youth!
“Good things take longer,” I answered. Another hour and the bread was ready for the oven. I set the timer for 40 minutes just as John brought in the pot of golden syrup. I stirred it, watching it slide off the spoon.
“Almost ready!” I smiled at him and set the pot on the stove, lighting the burner. It didn’t take long for it to start to bubble, and I lowered the heat so it wouldn’t scorch; it would be a small batch, but it was an important one. The excitement was high: Emilee’s first loaf of homemade bread and John’s first batch of maple syrup; both scents competing for our attention. What a wonderful combined aroma!
I slipped away to call Eric, sure he would want to be part of this. Everyone showed up a few minutes after I took the bread out of the oven, poking it with the instant read thermometer, to make sure it was done.
“Oh, man, does it smell good in here!” Eric exclaimed when he walked in and hugged his daughter.
“Dad! I made bread! I really did, didn’t I, Nahna?” Emilee looked over at me as she clung to her father.
“You sure did,” and I started to slice the hot bread, even though it was really too hot to cut. A couple of slices cut in half, for us to dip into a bowl of John’s maple syrup. Desert before dinner! It was wonderful.
2 thoughts on “March 16”
I had to have my journal fix, and what a delightful one it was too! I can almost smell that bread and maple syrup all the way down here in Texas :o)
What a great post! The step-by-step description of making homemade bread made me want to run out to the kitchen and make some, too! Can’t make my own maple syrup here, but I can certainly make bread.
I like making sourdough-though the starter can be tricky. The refrigerator rolls I make for the holidays are a family favorite.
Home cooking brings not only great taste and nutrition, it feeds the soul with memories of the past and new ones in the making.
Yummy! I’m inspired!