Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ain't it Funny how Time Slips Away...

I was a little too young for thirtysomething, but think of that term, pop culture, and my current age all the time recently. At some point, I became more the "I'm in my thirties" type, rather than a specific age, and I'm not sure when that happened or came to be. I'm also unsure how by magic I turned from child to parent, and how and when exactly my parents went from being my parents to also being my friends. I wonder all the time if the reason blogs are so prolific and interesting is because people my age, people who know what Snorks are, are hungry for the past, and for the first time they are fully aware of how lightening fast a lifetime will go.

A picture of my Gram hangs in my kitchen. It's a colorized photo of her smiling, sometime in the early 40's when she was a young girl. I must stare at that picture every single day for several minutes, wondering how that young girl became a strong, single parent and wondering how she worked so much and still had the time to make daily loaves of bread for her 5 children.

As often as my hands make their rhythm in the kitchen I think of hers and what they produced, and I think of her even more lately because of my skin ailments. I have inherited a lot of traits from her, and my sensitivity to my environment is just one of them. As I've nursed my swollen, horrible hands this week, I've thought of how continually thankful she was for everything, and how no one ever heard her complain about physical pain. I unfortunately did not inherit that quiet demeanor, but in a way, I feel like the way she handled difficulties in life inspires me to want to be strong in the same way. To be gracious and appreciative of every moment rather than sour and downhearted when I can't do what I'd like due to physical constraints.

barely sprouted wheat berries

Working entirely encased in foodservice gloves, I kneaded my way around a loaf of sprouted wheat bread yesterday. I haven't really been doing too much in my kitchen, and it makes me feel lost and unneeded. I read through the rest of Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads book, and felt only enough gonzo to sprout some hard wheat berries to make a 100% sprouted bread. I knew when I only let the wheat berries soak for about 16 hours and not properly "sprout" that I may be setting myself up for a dense loaf, but I was impatient both for sprouted bread and the feeling of empowerment that making bread gives me. And, Peter did say that soaking the grain overnight, draining and then waiting just a few hours should afford the grain enough time to sport tiny tails - and if you ask me it does look like my grain had a hint of tails.

This is a straight-dough method, commercial yeast bread with no added flour. The dough is made by grinding newly sprouted grain into a paste - something that caused my first ever VitaMix overheating. This is some heavy duty dough! I don't have a meat grinder, but I can borrow one from my Mom, and I think I will when I decide to try this bread again. Not that I was entirely unhappy with my dense result.

sprouted wheat bread, unbakedsprouted wheat bread

My childhood was such an amazing time, and I'm lucky to have so many food memories that I wouldn't know where to start. When this loaf came out of the oven at 1 1/2 lbs. of dense, near-brick stature, I immediately thought of my Eastern-European roots and the near black Baltic Rye bread that my great aunt used to migrate up from Chicago on summertime visits. That bread seemed to keep forever, and I remember eating it sliced wafer thin at my Great-Grandma's, my Gram's and at our own house. Stored in plastic and in the refrigerator, this was a tangy, rich bread that you would eat with cheese or finely sliced, cured meat and that is exactly what texture my bread took on. It may be that I didn't let it rise enough, didn't provide the dough a thorough kneading, was too quick to grind my sprouted wheat, or didn't grind it smooth enough... but all of the mistakes coupled with painful hands made a loaf of bread I'll enjoy every slice of myself.

sprouted wheat bread, sliced 2
it's toothsome.

I'm keeping it in plastic and in the fridge, and I'm able to slice it at a mere 1/4 inch or thinner with a chef's knife, and it makes me long for Summer Sausage which seemed to be a rare treat we gobbled up when I was a kid. At the time, I thought we could only get Summer Sausage in the Summer, and maybe we only did when big city relatives were visiting and mosquitoes were biting, and we all spent so much time together that it makes for stellar memories as a certain someone is approaching the other side of 35.

sprouted wheat bread, sliced

When I was growing up, old people seemed different than the older people I know now - I'll bet they will seem really different than the people I'll likely know when I'm officially old myself. Maybe nobody I know, including me, will retire Cocoon-style to Florida. Maybe the senior housing of the 2050's will be rocking out to Pearl Jam and Pantera and nostalgia t.v. networks will be long running marathons of the A-Team, Airwolf, and Simon and Simon. I guess time will tell, and hopefully I'll be healthy enough to avoid both assisted living and the pitfalls of too much television...

Meanwhile, I'm storing up new memories and trying desperately to be happy with these flawed hands that prevent me from working in the dirt, kneading the dough as I'd like. I'm trying to be comfortable with my increasing age for the first time in my life, trying to embrace the multiplying numbers of long silver hair that seem so noticeable to me but strangely to no one else. And if I feel like singing out loud in the middle of the day, I have made the time and space in my kitchen comfortable enough to do so. I will love the things I love now as much no matter my age and ability, and I pray that I'll just be able to keep the time from running through my (hopefully healing) fingers too quickly.


  1. My Eastern European roots are telling me to make this bread. We eat sprouted bread all the time but I've never tried to make it. I may have to buy the book.

    1. I'd like to try it again and try to get it a little softer, but I did enjoy it. I've got more breads to make from it (I got my copy from the library...), but all of them look fantastic and perfectly suited for someone who is a bit patient and loves to tinker with bread!


Communication is a good thing, most of the time...