Thursday Thoughts: Recipes – Just a serving suggestion?

I like to cook and bake. I try to make bread once a week, usually a baguette of a french loaf, but I got some rye flour, so I’m into rye bread for a while.

My grandmother would make rye bread in her own way. My sister and I asked her for that recipe once, and she pointed to her head and said “watch”. So, she poured and dashed the ingredient into the bowl—no measuring implements required unless you consider a handful as a measurement—as we looked on and guesstimated the amounts. Even with her arthritic hands, she could kneed better than anyone.

The result? Same as always – Best rye bread ever.

My mom has the “recipe”, and it’s good, but it’s not the same. My sister makes it, and it’s good, but it’s not the same. I make it, and it’s good, but—well you get the idea.

I usually follow a recipe once, then make my own variation. My entrees never taste exactly the same, because I often add different ingredients based on what I have in my fridge. Baking is somewhat unforgiving to artistic license I have learned, so I have experience some failures. Oh, I eat them…usually.

I’ve been chastised when asked to prepare on of those meal prep boxes*, where everything is all ready to go, and includes a step-by-step picture map with the first instruction being: “Read the entire recipe card before starting.” Yeah, whatever…


*In one of the commercials, they say these meals are great for preparing dinners “on a budget.” Really? Maybe if you include the 4 or 5 free meals they send, but after that— I could eat for a week on the price of one box.

Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and PicturesJourneys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar and The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.

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Food for Thought: Fitter or Fatter?

Fitter fatter, let’s get ‘at her. I know that not being able to go out as much as usual is getting to many people. Physical distancing rules are a tough pill to swallow. And many activities have had to be curtailed. Throw in the winter weather-if you are so lucky to live where the seasons actually change, and it’s hard to get in the exercise we want. Many people are taking up different habits, usually revolving around food. Here are a few things I enjoy:

Baking Bread: I started to bake bread because I figured out that 20 cents worth of flour makes a $1.49 loaf of bread. Which was the reason I always bought bread on sale. Plus it is sooo tasty. If you have ever pulled a fresh loaf of bread out of the oven, you know that it is hard to wait for it to cool before you cut a steamy slice from it and decorate it with a all too generous serving of butter (oh yes, you have to use butter). Then, maybe ½ hour later you realize that you need to bake more. I’ll quote myself here: “Don’t bake bread unless you are prepared to eat the whole loaf.” That was the reason that early in history, bread was baked everyday. Not the rumour that it went stale quickly.

My grandmother always made rye bread. No recipe, and bit of this, a pinch of that. Even in her 70’s she would be there with her arthritic hands, kneading away. I think that was the only time that it didn’t hurt. My mother made the same bread, but it never turned out the same. My sister wrote down the recipe when grandmother visited her one time. It’s good, but int’s not the same. I finally got the recipe. It’s good, but it’s not the same. What was her secret? We will never know, but I suspect it may have been the old farmhouse woodstove. Or the old farmhouse lard. Or the old rye flour…

There is a lot of different breads to experiment with, even a failed loaf is kind of tasty. My favorite is pizza dough. After many variations, I have it nailed. I’ll let you in on one secret. Make the dough 3 days in advance (yes, 3 days) and put it in the fridge, covered of course. The slow rise makes for a light and crisp crust. Try to say crisp crust 5 times fast! My second favorite is a French baguette. Good with soup, as a Po’boy, or sliced with a fresh tomato. I still partake in the Parisian ritual of tearing off the heel straight away. I observed this outside a boulangerie where no heel made it out the door untorn. Oh, the humanity!

Sweets: Cookies, pies, cakes. It’s all good. But my all time favorite is…oh it goes by so many names. So like a a culinary earworm, I’m giving it to you, so that I’m not the only one stuffing my gob with this delight.

1/2 Cup Margarine, 1 Cup Peanut Butter, 1 pkg Butterscotch chips, Mini marshmallows. You know what I’m talking about…

Beverages: I love coffee. I started drinking it as a teen (‘cuz it was cool) with cream and sugar. Then I weened myself of cream, then sugar, so that I finally was able to enjoy the actual taste of coffee. I realized how bad some of the take-out / fast food coffees were. I won’t name any outright, but they know who they are. Once in university, I sat with my buddies and drank at least 20 cups of coffee (thank you free refills!), and subsequently was up for 24 hours after. Subsequently, the restaurant revoked the free refill policy.

It is easy to drink more coffee now, but I do limit myself to a couple of cups in the morning, and occasionally one in the afternoon. If I need a hot beverage, I’m turn to my second favorite, tea. Holding a hot cup of tea feels different than a hot cup of coffee. Can’t explain that but try it out. I didn’t know that there were so many types of tea until I had High Tea in London. A whole menu of tea there was. Don’t get me started on the sandwiches. I have a collection of teas that I delight in: Green, White, Ginseng,  Chamomile, Orange Pekoe, English Breakfast, but I’ll always return to my first love.

As a famous thespian in his greatest role once said, “Tea, Earl Grey, hot.”