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Sunday, March 28, 2010

An oven should always have enough to do

Risa had been under the weather again, so, after breakfast --what was it, you ask?

Umm, diced Yukon Gold potatoes fried with chopped bok choi greens and walking onions with a couple of duck eggs -- so, after breakfast, 'K? -- she took a nap.

It proved to be a long nap, which was as well, because a big storm was getting itself together out over the Pacific, with a mind to come inland and wet things down, and Risa hoped to get the ducks' pools cleaned and refilled before the winds rose.

When you're sixty or so, and not limber, the hard part of farm chores can be the getting dressed for it. One's feet are a long way away, for getting into rubber wellies, and rain bib overalls get heavier and more confining each year. Over all this might go a rain coat and hood, and then, of course, as soon as you are out in the rain, it's "oh, my, I forgot to go potty again ... " and you get to do the whole rigamarole over, with not a single chore done yet to show for it.

But everything got itself done before the storm came knocking, and as she'd remembered to bank the fire before going out, there was a warm spot to return to for a cuppa, and she watched with impunity the rain pouring off the roof.

Enough energy left over to contemplate making a few afternoon things in the kitchen.

She put on the "Buena Vista Social Club," washed some dishes, and looked things over. The leftover bits of bell pepper and broccoli from Beloved's lunch makings still lay on the counter. It occurred to her to put all these into the blender, with a few fava bean leaves and a chopped walking onion, along with some honey and molasses, and pour over these the pastry water drained from last night's spaghetti, to blend. The resulting liquid seemed likely to make a decent bread, enough for four loaves. So she set the bowl on a trivet on the wood stove, to raise its temperature just a bit.

After changing over the CD to De Danann, she poured the liquid into the mixing bowl, gave it some yeast and a bit of spelt flour for the yeast to think about, and a handful of rolled oats, and went away to read a National Geographic article by Barbara Kingsolver, about water and climate. Wow, good stuff. Sobering, though.

After adding a stick to the fire, she came back to the mixing bowl and gave it five or six scoops of whole spelt from the flour barrel, using a small bowl, and a generous handful of salt. Then she pulled three chopsticks from the chopstick vase, to use, all together, as a paddle, and stirred the batch until it stiffened and cleaned most all the flour off the bowl. Dropping a large wok lid over the bowl, to keep the dough's surface from drying out, she went to lie down and listen to De Danann's rendition of "Hard Times." The rains, pouring onto the courtyard, provided a fitting background.

Later, Risa will flour her hands with buckwheat, shape the four loaves and let them rise some more, on a greased cookie sheet, inside the oven, until it's time to set the one dial on 350 and the other dial on BAKE.

Meanwhile, she'll cut up two delicatas, lengthwise, reserve the seeds for the chickens, place the halves on an oiled cookie sheet, stuff them with rice, kale, local sausage and honey, and put the sheet in the oven, on the lower shelf beneath the growing loaves. After all, an oven should always have enough to do ... and someone will be coming home hungry.

At other times they had baked Hubbard squash for dinner. The rind was so hard that Ma had to take Pa's ax to cut the squash into pieces. When the pieces were baked in the oven, Laura loved to spread the soft insides with butter and then scoop the yellow flesh from the rind ... -- Little House in the Big Woods


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