Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bread baking in Indiana

Another summer weekend, another adventure.

You may remember Eric, from the Cosmic Otters. He’s our accordion player and he and his wife are good friends of ours. Now, they have a third member of the household.

Jamming in the bakery while the bread rises, which is why he is wearing a hairnet.

Wee L. arrived about two months ago, and as Eric and Katie make their living baking and selling bread at their farmers’ market, we thought we’d go down to help with the baking on Friday and selling on Saturday (and, to be honest, to see the baby.)

This is from earlier this spring; for some reason, I didn't take pictures when I was at the market last time.

The Fool and I are pretty respectable home bakers who bust out a couple loaves whenever we need bread. We have a nice sedate gas oven with a temperature dial and a thermostat. We have air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter. We have a refrigerator if the dough starts to get really crazy and we need to slow it down, because we can always find space for a mixing bowl in there, even if we have to stack a few things.

Eric is a baker in a whole different universe. He makes beautiful sourdough hearth loaves, 50, 60, 70 at a time, bakes them in a wood-fired oven, and does the whole thing in a small kitchen with no air conditioning. (And his pretzels. Oy. The Fool could happily live on these soft pretzels. Eric jokes about starting him a tab whenever we visit.)

Usually, he manages just fine, but this last time was rough. The oven wasn’t at an appropriate baking temperature, and all he could do was wait for the temperature to coast down. The weather was hot and humid, and so the dough was rising fast – too fast. The oven temperature, like a train on an oncoming track in one of those story problems in fifth grade math, was going to intersect with the bread dough at the completely wrong time, and we had nothing to do but reshape the flobbery, quick-rising loaves and try to peel the sticky dough out of the linen-lined rising baskets.

“Ha ha,” I said to him. “Isn’t it fun being on the front lines of the local food revolution?”

He gave me an absolutely filthy look – sweaty, tired, wearing the health-department mandated hairnet - and said nothing. Then he burned some bread because he was helping his wife with wee L.

Everyone I know is having babies, in one case, two at a time, so I decided the smartest thing to do was put the socks on hold and knit Ann Norling’s fruit caps in different colors of Takhi Cotton Classic until I get a good stockpile.

One of the hats stayed with our friends. They keep calling their little baby “Sweetpea,” so it seemed the obvious choice.

Jamie examines baby toes.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Morris On!

In a slight departure from our usual folk music and dance entertainments, last weekend, the Fool, Jamie and I loaded up the van and headed for Lexington, Mich. With some friends for the 2011 Midwest Morris Ale. We only went because our friend Spider talked us into playing music for Braintrust Morris, her Morris team. (She didn’t have to talk very hard; we’ve been listening to a lot of English folk music for the last couple years, so we were predisposed.)

First-ever Braintrust Morris practice with everyone, at the UM School of Dentistry overhang.

On Saturday and Sunday, the nearly 300 dancers and musicians in attendance split up among a half dozen buses and descended on nearby towns to perform. Morris dance is not a participatory dance like contra dancing; it’s a performance dance. (You can read more here.)

Border Morris. Don't they look fierce?

We danced in parks, we danced at historical re-enactments, we danced by the lake where Jamie watched boats. In between engagements with the puzzled public, the green grass and the blue May sky, we visited pubs.

Dozens of people, most of them wearing white with bells strapped to their shins, poured into local watering holes, ordered drinks and literally – within 10 minutes – started singing. In harmony. Loudly. The Fool was thrilled. He never gets to belt out high tenor harmonies for any reason at all, except for one night when he was doing Opera-Singing Clam Puppet to entertain Jamie in the bathtub. One dancer from Minnesota has my eternal gratitude for covering Jamie’s ears during one verse of a song he was leading so that Jamie didn’t learn a new swear word (he learns enough from me, I’m afraid) and for changing another verse so that it was about a sailor who landed on shore and went down to the pub to find a … date. Uh-huh. Still, I appreciate the sacrifice of the rhyme scheme.

Then, because everyone had brought their instruments with them, sometimes, more dancing broke out.

Jamie was utterly enchanted. In many respects, this was an ideal situation for an active toddler. He got to spend lots of time outside, he got to see many different kinds of boats, he got to see many different dogs, and whenever we went to play, he stood between us and watched the dancers.

Now that we are home, whenever I want him to entertain himself for 10 or 15 minutes, long enough for me to unload some dishes or whatever, I put on Spiers and Boden, hand him two dinner napkins and let him leap around the kitchen.

The camp we were at had animals! We went for a walk one morning to visit them all - rabbits, some goats, some horses, a couple dogs, and an alpaca.

(Knitting: one toe-up sock for the Fool out of cotton. I tried to bid on a big bag of mixed laceweight at the weekend’s silent auction, but lost by $2. Just as well. I have plenty of yarn I should knit first.)