Friday, September 2, 2011

Simple Things

There was a time when I did quite a lot of baking. I guess with just two of us at home now, I've gotten out of the habit. But today, I felt like making bread.

The house fills with a terrific homey smell when bread bakes.
 When the bread comes out of the oven, I let it cool on its side for a while.
 The recipe I used today came to me via my former, and now late, mother-in-law, Marjorie Machell. There's not much on the recipe card. You would have to know a bit about baking bread for it to be of any use. (The stain proves it's been a well-used recipe. Never trust a recipe card without stains, I say.)
 Today, I used a mix of unbleached wheat flour, whole wheat flour, and some oatmeal to make up the needed 15 cups for four loaves.  It's a pretty forgiving recipe.

 My oldest son, John, who like his grandmother is a very good cook, taught me this kitchen tip. John labels everything in both his home kitchen and at his restaurant. The label tells what's in the container and/or when it was opened. Very handy for things in my home
like salad dressing, when I'm wondering just how long it's been sitting in the fridge. I need to do this more rigorously. Waste not, want not.

Which brings me to this: I was thinking about Marge Machell today as I mixed and kneaded the bread. She was great at making a full life out of simple things: sewing, knitting, quilting, cooking, family. She and many of her generation, including my own parents, lived through the Great Depression and were formed by it. They were pros when it came to waste not, want not habits and skills. My own mother darned socks and sewed her own curtains. My Grandfather Coombs ate mostly what he grew in his own garden and the fish he caught from the sea. My Grandmother Holmes put up jellies and jams and did beautiful needlework. Bob's stepmother, Florence, could make fabulous soup out of practically nothing. I don't think any of them missed a thing by not having cell phones or computers linked to the Internet. They read, they talked, they made things from scratch. 

As the economy continues to slow, I am glad I have inherited some of these simple skills from my parents, in-laws, and grandparents. I only hope that I have taught my own children enough of them.

P.S. The Handsome Husband just came home from work and has already devoured two thick slices of bread.
"It's very good," he says. (Me: modest smile.)