Monday, September 23, 2013

My newest favorite thing

That, to the left?  Why, it’s my newest favorite thing – a real, live, authentic professional baking book that used to belong to my grandpa.  (Thanks, Mom!)  My grandpa has always held a sweet spot in my memory banks, and, it turns out, we share our love of baking.  As a young adult during the depression, he, like so many others, did his share of odd jobs.  But, he often fell back on baking as a way to make a living – starting off as a baker in a lumberjack camp in Northern Wisconsin, and working on and off in various bakeries for several years afterwards.
You may not be able to read it, but the book is called “Cakes and Pastries,” and is the sort of cookbook used to feed the masses.  For example, there’s a recipe for Pecan Butterscotch Rolls – makes 27 dozen (there is an annotation that “these rolls are a very good seller”), a recipe for 10 dozen “cheap” cupcakes, and a recipe for 10 dozen sheet cakes that you are supposed to “bake fast.”

Printed in 1925, the book was written in the days of less-than-fancy ovens.  Bakers are instructed to bake confections in “moderate,” “cool,” or “hot” ovens, and it is assumed that the recipe readers know their ways around recipes.  Instructions include such specifics as: “give rolls some proof,” “let dough rest for some time,” add enough water to make a good mixture,” “extra icing can be set aside in a stone jar and covered with a damp cloth,” berry cream pie “keeps well and eats well,” and cheesecake should be “cut into 10 or 15 cent slices.”

The book covers all the basics – French pastries, cakes, cookies, pies, tarts, tortes, candies, and, of course, breads and rolls.  There are recipes for things I’ve never heard of, like “Hermits” (dark and light, no less) and “Sally Lun Muffins,” and recipes for things like “Pepper Nuts” (no nuts in the recipe), “Cocoanut (sic) Rocks” (no rocks in the recipe), and “Spanish Strips” (that apparently had to have pink frosting) – all labeled “Hard Goods for Showcase.”

I have loved perusing this artifact of my grandpa’s life.  But, the showstoppers are at the back of the book where he penned his own recipes and notes.  So, readers, here, in my late-grandpa’s own lovely hand, is his tried and true recipe for 100 loaves of bread.  It's the ingredients, anyway.  A real baker knows what to do with them.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Go get your dose of green!


To do before the leaves change:  forest bathe.
You’ve probably been forest bathing without even realizing it.  Called Shinrin-yoku in Japanese, forest bathing is an officially recognized leisure and stress management activity touted for its health benefits.  You find a wooded area.  You enter it.  You breathe deeply of the wood and leaf essences emitted by trees.  You feel better – emotionally, psychologically and physically.  Like with any aromatherapy, part of the benefit comes from deep breathing, part from stillness, and part from the essential oils themselves.  Wood essential oils, called phytoncides, are antimicrobial, not to mention, a sensory treat. 
So, quick, while you still can – go forest bathing one more time this year.  You know you want to.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Thanks to: for this instructive image

Everything is connected. 
That sounds like a cliché, but it is interesting how often I need to be reminded of the phrase’s importance.  I may be the last person around who has finally encountered the amazing story of “Cloud Atlas."  The 2004 novel, by David Mitchell, and the 2012 film, Directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski (which I just viewed via Netflix), explores how the actions and consequences of individual lives, delivered in six nesting narratives, impact one another throughout the past, the present and the future.  Reincarnation?  Maybe.  Connection?  Absolutely.  A fantastic story?  Well, I saw it two weeks ago and am still thinking about it.  So, yes. 
Read it.  Or rent it.  But, do enjoy it.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Contemplation Day

Each new season seems to beg for a little personal introspection.  As we ease slowly into shorter days, consider these ten inspirational quotes and decide if any of them speak to you.
1.  “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” – Kurt Vonnegut
2.  “The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates
3.  “It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it.” – Lou Holtz
4.  “I was never really insane except upon occasions when my heart was touched.” – Edgar Allan Poe
5.  “Imagine there's no country.  It isn’t hard to do.  Nothing to kill or die for.  No religion too.  Imagine all the people living life in peace.” – John Lennon
6.  “I dream my painting and I paint my dream.” – Vincent van Gogh
7.  “You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” – Jack London
8.  “It's hard to beat a person who never gives up.” – Babe Ruth
9.  “Why do they always teach us that it's easy and evil to do what we want and that we need discipline to restrain ourselves? It's the hardest thing in the world--to do what we want. And it takes the greatest kind of courage.” – Ayn Rand
10.  “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: ‘It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to.’” – Jim Jarmusch
Which quote do you like best today?  Is there another quote that you’re drawn to lately that you’d like to share?