Friday, February 12, 2010

When good bread goes bad...

the birds get breakfast!

One of the habits I've tried to cultivate in the new year is making bread on a regular basis. It's just too difficult to buy good bread and too easy to make it to do otherwise, and over several weeks I've made round loaves of honey wheat and of rye, braids of challah, nubby pumpkin rolls, a quickish brioche.

And yet...there are days when it just doesn't work out--the yeast is expired, you look at the wrong recipe and add too much water, the water's too hot or too cold, ten minutes of kneading results in nothing but sore fingers.

The loaf of Yellow and Red and White Bread I made the week before the storm was a sorry loaf, the crust like a helmet, the inside dense. It was edible, but just. And then the snow came, and with it, birds looking for food. I rummaged through cupboards and threw them stale nuts and olive green pumpkinseeds before remembering the sorry loaf. The birds, of course, were less picky than I.

My grandfather used to buy soft loaves of white sandwich bread in red and white plastic bags from Mars grocery store. It was his "bread for the birds" and it sat atop my grandparents' icebox before Grandpop tore it up into shreds and scattered it under the giant holly tree. Grandpop was dilligent about feeding his birds, and stocked up during snowstorms, in the same way other folks hoard milk and toilet paper. It took me a very long time to realize that the bread wasn't marketed exclusively as bird food.

What we do when it snows...

We make doughnuts (and shovel) and drink Manhattans (and shovel) and throw a neighborhood potluck (and look out the window, then shovel) and eat and drink some more...

and don't take any pictures of it.

But we prepared for snow by baking and cooking and eating too.

Rye bread, made during a "I'm going to make bread every week" kick. (This tradition needs a jump start...I'm working on it.).

Chicken pot pie

and beef bourguignon to build stamina for the upcoming blizzard.

During the snow we baked a lasagne and ate leftover sauerkraut, heavenly with some smoked pork chops put away for just this kind of weather.

Our neighbors baked cakes and bread, made soups (lentil, bean and kale) and quiche. We made grocery runs for eggs, potatoes, carrots, cheese (but no butter--the Giant was out) and knocked on doors to borrow booze or spices.

It's a beautiful nuisance, this snow, but it created a sort of surreal timelessness for a few days, a chance to not think about what day it was or what needed to be done. I treasure that.

What did you eat during the blizzard?


This week's Free Range review is Tapas Adela, the newest addition to the the Kali's Restaurant Group. Adela features mostly authentic Spanish-style tapas, including some tasty anchovas boquerones, in the Kali's heavy corner of Fell's Point (i.e., the western swath of Broadway and Thames).

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

More writing! More!

Which is really what I should be doing on this blog, but for now, please forgive me if I post already written stuff. It's what I do.

(Um, besides obsessively reading craft blogs--a list coming soon--and dreaming of all the things I'm going to sew when I'm not writing or cooking.)

I love Philadelphia, a city I didn't begin to explore in earnest until moving back to Baltimore from Chicago in 2001. Since then, I drive north every few months, often to see a concert or visit friends (usually the two are combined), shop at Spool or Main Street Music, have a gelato at Capogiro.

I've also been lucky enough to have been assigned various stories about the city, like this one about shopping or this one about the city's beer scene. The latest, how to spend the day eating and drinking in the City of Brotherly Love can be found here.


Loads of Fun

This week's Free Range review is Mr. Rain's Fun House in the American Visionary Arts Museum. Zany and creative, with a globally influenced menu and all the charm of a huckster, it still manages to be a really comfortable place to dine. Be sure to check out the miniature merry-go-round in the corner.