Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oh, that poor girl on Jeopardy.

Did you see that poor girl on Jeopardy?



(You poor thing. I'm not going to use your name, the sooner for people to forget it. It could have happened to anyone. Before you go to college, change your glasses and your hair - color and style. Anyone who bothers to figure it out after that is a creepy stalker.)

In fourth grade, I volunteered to tell a joke at an assembly and told one I'd read in MAD magazine, not realizing just how dirty it was. In high school, I inadvertently had a crass lesbian innuendo printed in the paragraph next to my photo in my yearbook because I didn't realize it was a crass lesbian innuendo. It really did come about from a New Years Eve sleepover held in a house that was being renovated, and a living room full of pulled-up carpets awaiting trash day. I am so glad neither of these events were televised, though the unfortunate slipped-strap incident of 1995 was played in the cafeteria during several lunch periods.

Daily, I cringe to shake my spine about something embarrassing that I've said or done. Sometimes it's right after it happened, but just as often I'm remember that time I was sitting in Law & Government and coughed while resting my hand on my chin, inadvertently emitting a wet farty sound.

I know I'm the only one keeping track. If I could, I'd have one of those Eternal Sunshine memory erase procedures for all of the embarrassing bits. Of course, it would only lead to two weeks chock-full of new social missteps as I re-learned everything.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bread.

I have been baking bread. In one of my last days of employment I was woe-is-me-ing via status update that I didn't know what to do with my time, and my aunt suggested it. She reminded me that it was on the Hundred Things list, and I did make one solitary loaf of bread back then, but it wasn't great. It was mealy, and dried out almost immediately. I'd used that one-pot method that was making the rounds of the food blogs. This time I've gone more traditional, with the french bread recipe from The Vegetarian Epicure.

I've made three batches in the past two weeks, and now I have the recipe memorized. Yeast and water in one measuring cup. Boiling water, butter, sugar, and salt in another. Flour in a third bowl, with the flour canister left open on the counter. Mix, throw in more flour if it refuses to come together. Knead briefly. Put the dough in a buttered bowl, cover, and wait.

Wait. Bread takes time. The first rising takes ninety minutes. I can't stop tiptoeing up to the bowl atop its heating pad and lifting the tea towel to see if it's any bigger yet. If you disturb it, you shake out all of the good gasses that the yeasts are producing and the network of gluten strands that make bread what it is.

Once I've put away the clean dishes and washed the dirty measuring cups and mixing bowls, I've still got eighty minutes to go. Patience has never been my strength. I like to feel busy. I like to know what I'm supposed to do now, and next, and why. I kill time by puttering, rounding up the library books, brushing the cat, washing my hands, putting on hand lotion, checking the employment sites to see if anything interesting has been listed today. I figure I'm still early enough in the game that I can take "interesting vs. not interesting" into consideration. (I declare this knowing history may prove me wrong.)

Thirty-five minutes to go. The clean dishes are dry, so I put them away. The mail comes; I shred most of it. I make a mess of cleaning out my sock drawer. I tiptoe to the bowl again, lift the tea towel, and stare.

Finally it's time for the punching and kneading and shaping. Though the recipe calls for three loaves, I prefer to cut the dough into eight pieces, and use them as sandwich rolls. I'm still developing the skills to measure dough by sight, so they're uneven.

Working at the counter, I listen to the news. There are protests in the Middle East, young people who want a voice in their government, an over-educated population demanding a chance to do meaningful work. In the Midwest there's a governor trying to end collective bargaining rights for unions. There aren't enough jobs.

It's time for the second rising. There may still be live yeast in the dough, so you should let the formed rolls sit for a while and see if they can inject any air into the dough. Wash a few more dishes, watch something else on You Tube. Eventually I decide I've waited long enough, and slide the pans in the oven. I flip the oven light on so I can peek inside. The dough balls lose their shine as they dry out. You can see them harden and become firm versions of themselves. I go to the cupboard and take out the jar of Nutella. Soon there will be bread.