That Diabolical Staff of Life

I admit it. Today’s first post was a cop-out.

Here’s the thing. It’s hard to come up with something to write about every day. Well, actually, that’s not it. It’s difficult to come up with something interesting to write about every day. Something interesting and witty and well, noteworthy.

A real writer, a talented writer, can write about anything though and make it interesting. I know I’ve been going on quite a bit about Henry Miller lately, but seriously, he wrote about bread and made it interesting and funny. Now that’s talent.

And talking about bread – I’m on a bread-making kick. Made some yesterday and again today. I found this great recipe for bread that doesn’t require any kneading, just a lot of waiting. American bread has come a long way since Miller penned his admonition, which he aptly titled Staff of Life. Despite progress to the North, you’d be hard pressed to find good bread in Mexico. At least this part of Mexico (I haven’t travelled far afield enough in Mexico to know one way or the other).

One of my loaves.

You see Mexicans, while they may have tortilla-making down to a science, have no idea what good bread is or what it should taste like. Tortillas are in fact the antithesis of bread. It is their flatness that makes it impossible to compare them to bread. Filling the bread niche, certainly, but made from the same basic ingredients? Only partially. And the results are flat, literally.

And as a result, in my eight years living in Baja Sur, I have had to forego bread as a staple of my diet.

It just occurred to me – there may be a connection between the quality of bread in a country and the size of my waistline. Recognizing that correlation does not equal causation (hell-oo-oo! global warming alarmists), there is a definite positive relationship between my proximity to good bread and my weight. Positive in a growth sense, not in a health and wellness sense.

I lived in Germany for some months in the mid-80s, during which time it became my habit to skip class and head for the nearest bakery for salzbröchen. Salty buns are in essence the dinner roll crossed with a pretzel – a diabolical combination. Their shiny buttery dark brown exterior dotted liberally with gritty coarse salt, their insides soft, chewy, doughy whiteness. And the flavor? Oh my God, the flavor!! I would buy one, and my taste buds primed, return for three more. This combined with the afternoon habit of taking coffee and cake meant my comfy jeans were no longer comfy on the flight home to Canada the following December.

In contrast, Mexico has Bimbo bread, the offspring of Wonder. Lifeless, uniform in its unnaturally spongy texture, and non-biodegradable. I once left the remains of a loaf Bimbo out to see how long it would take to mold. I waited, and waited. Days passed, then weeks. No mold appeared. To my horror. The realization struck me like a Mac truck – the shear volume of preservatives that must be combined with flour and yeast to make it so resistant to decay. Bimbo has since been regarded as That Devil Bread.

Henceforth, it became necessary to find a manner of making bread that didn’t require much effort (for I need to reserve my energy for writing, wink wink). A bread maker is out of the question as they use too much energy for this solar-powered household. So when I happened upon the no knead recipe, I was smitten. When I tried the results, I was sold.

Weight-gain be damned! There is nothing quite so delectable as the smell of baking bread wafting about the house.


5 thoughts on “That Diabolical Staff of Life

  1. Dawn,I am actually making bread this very moment… on the second rise right now for this recipe: the past few months I've taken to making bread, partly in interest to see if I can do it, partly to savour something more tasty and/or create something that I've had elsewhere in a restaurant like Chez Piggy and Panchancho's bakery.Some other fun ones are: speaking of the Devil as in 'These are so devilishy good I must eat all that I have baked of these', you have to try: have also tried the no knead variation and that works too, (see NY Times articles on them online). I'll have to take some pics and post them. It's amazing what food blogs there are out on the net and how meticulous they are on each step…crazy!Keep in touch!Chris (& Maria) in Kingston.

  2. Post the recipe! PUH-LEASE. (I became a follower…you could make it a reward – wink, wink) Love that term: bimbo bread! It's actually not easy to find REALLY good bread here in Lake Cowichan either. We've been spoiled by the Wildfire bakery in Victoria – so we know what good bread tastes like. Every time we drive there we bring a cooler and load up on their frozen bread which we then dole out sparingly to the toaster gods up here in our small town. But we always run out of foccacia!

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