And this was then

I found this item while rooting around in my old daily exercises. It’s like a fever dream. Every thought engenders another. My life was full then, and it is now.

January 9, 2014 11:14 AM

As I work in the kitchen, pulling together breakfast, everything is connected…

Start with toasted artisan bread: the bread’s easy enough to make every day (I’ll post the recipe and technique soon). It connects me to my son-in-law Jeff, who made this sort of wet artisan dough baked in a hot Dutch oven long before I did, and The Oregonian, which recently ran a new version of the recipe.

The toaster  reminds me of my mother, who had the same model and complained that it tossed the toast across the room. Mine doesn’t do that very often, but a piece of toast landed on the kitchen floor a few days ago. My mom loved toast, ate a lot of jelly, used to give me jelly I didn’t use. Finally, two years after her death, I found a jar in the back of a cupboard and opened it. Mixed berry, absolutely delicious. I never got to tell her.

The honey on the toast is Barlean’s neighborhood honey; I connected with Jim Barlean, retired USMC and now a beekeeper, at the Saturday Market maybe 25 years ago with an eye to doing a story that never happened. The butter is in a butter holder the likes of which I bought for my daughters, and we all discovered that, when stored upside down in water at room temperature, unsalted butter will go bad but that salted butter will last.

I need a refill of the honey, and Barlean keeps jars of it in a cabinet in his front yard on Queen Road in Milwaukie; you put the money in a slot and take what you need. I’ll go there on soon on my way to shop for grains at Bob’s Red Mill, on International Way in Milwaukie.

 I go through a lot of flour these days. I’ll also buy farro, which my friend Sevin introduced me to. She’s Turkish, and farro, or emmer, an ancient variety of wheat, grows wild in that country. Italians cook with it, and now it’s a hot “new” food in the US.

An article in the January O (Oprah) magazine suggests four ingredients to keep on hand: farro, dressed kale (massage the leaves with olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest), a sharp lemony dressing of tahini with parsley, and sweet potatoes. The idea is to mix the foods in various ways to make salads and tacos, etc. I’ve been making grain salads for years, but farro is special—nutty, crunchy, delicious.

The same issue of O suggested eating 2 pounds of vegetables a day. Two pounds! Well, I’ve started on mine with a green drink: kale, spinach, zucchini, beet greens, celery, pear, cinnamon, pinch of cloves. I forgot to add two usual ingredients, ginger and watercress. Just before drinking, I add chia and flax seeds (I grind flax every few weeks and keep a jar the refrigerator; ground flax goes rancid quickly). Can’t add them earlier, because they dissolve into jelly. Also squeezed in lemon juice and ginger juice pressed from grated ginger. I love my Vitamix, and I love Mirador, the small local home goods store where I bought it. 

So many of my tools have meaning, like the Microplane grater I use for the ginger. I remember when Microplanes first came on the market, developed by a woman who took the tool from her husband’s woodworking shop. Every time I grate lemon, I remember how an early reviewer described lemon zest falling “like snow” from the grater.

Because I’m having toast, I’m not eating one of the muffins I made a few days ago, but they are remarkable, too, a mashup of a recipes from Woman’s Day and Deborah Madison. Lyza’s friend Bryan Fox gave me Vegetarian Cooking for Everybody for Christmas, the dear boy. The WD recipe has bran, buttermilk, w/w flour, no white flour, and pumpkin. Madison’s recipe calls for sweet potatoes or squash and has white flour, no bran. Mine are the no-white-flour version with jewel yams, skins and all (the skins dissolve in the food processor) and sugar reduced from 3/4 cup to 1/4—and they are still quite sweet. I add nuts and dried fruit: walnuts, dates, dried apples, cranberries, sliced apricots, way more than the 3/4 cup called for. These muffins stay moist and tasty for days. 

My hot drink today is yerba maté. I think of Maggie’s old friend, Lucien Smith, who once had to talk his way through customs with a large package of what to the agent looked like marijuana. I usually make it by putting a mound of maté in my special cup, then adding hot water from a thermos. But today I brewed it in my new teapot, bought at the Oregon coast in August when I was attending a writers workshop. Made by Tazo, it was on deep discount at Starbucks. Pretty white porcelain, wide-bottomed so it can’t tip over, jaunty orange knob on the lid. I make the maté strong and fill one thermos with that and another with boiling water to both dilute the brew and warm it up.

I always drink maté out of the same cup, the handleless one with a crow on it, made by a potter named Shane Blitch. I love how a couple of indentions on the side fit my fingers perfectly. I did a story about Blitch in the early days of my retirement, when I thought I wanted to write about people for the Internet. He started adding birds to his designs when he had back trouble and had to lie for hours on the floor, watching the blackbirds or crows or ravens—he didn’t know which—in his backyard. 

Even though I brewed the maté today and there are no dregs to filter out, I’m still sipping through a bombilla, a traditional straw with a strainer at the end. I recently traded in my bamboo one for stainless steel, which lasts longer: another Mirador purchase. Maté imparts a gentle buzz, a feeling of well-being, rather like nicotine but not as strong. Many people think it’s bitter, and it will be if brewed with boiling water. Like green tea, it needs water a bit below boiling. I am blessed to have an electric kettle with a thermostat that heats the water just right.

11:44 AM

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