Bread and “it’s a big ol’ goofy world”

Bowl, Spoon, Mascot

Bowl, Spoon, Mascot.

Jamie over at Life’s a Feast just blogged about bread baking. Memories of my early efforts are flooding my brain. Even with something as mundane as bread, I’m reminded that it’s a big ol’ goofy world.

John Prine is a peach and most of his songs are national treasures .(I have no idea why I own no John Prine – I must rectify this.)  The title alone of It’s a Big Ol’ Goofy World is a phrase I use often.  My life seems to have taken more twists and turns than can possibly be normal.  It’s a big ol’ goofy world.

In 1972 or so, I decided that no self-respecting hippy wannabe could call her self an Earth Mother without bread making on her resume. (Candle making and macrame are also required, but I never got around to those two.)  So, I pulled out my mother’s ancient cookbook, inherited from an even older relative, and set to.

It was, in keeping with early times of the cookbook, a recipe for basic white bread – the kind of bread that for years and years housewives made weekly to supply the household. It was assumed, I think, that one pretty much knew how to make bread.

Treasured walnut wooden spoon.

Treasured walnut wooden spoon.

Most people need either really, really good directions on the technique or they need someone to show them. Good bread is less about ingredients than it is about how you go about combining those ingredients and working them.

After the lump of Pillsbury flour brick came out of the oven and even the dog wouldn’t eat it, I went on a quest looking for the perfect recipe. I was just 13 and my range was limited. Brick after brick, I didn’t lose enthusiasm for learning how to do this, but I was supremely aggravated. ‘Course I was in the throes of puberty and spent most of my time aggravated about something.

At the time, my parents were in the process of turning a screened-in-porch into a family room. My dad hired one of the Marines under his command to do the wiring – seems the guy was a licensed electrician as well as a grunt.

He was an odd character. One afternoon, I was fussing with bread bricks when he wandered into the kitchen for a glass of water. I fussed and fumed and probably threw a few bowls around. He told me I was going about it wrong. One thing led to another and the kind-of-odd, crusty gunny sergeant/electrician showed me how to make bread. Somewhere during the process, my mom wandered into the kitchen and sat at the table watching.

There was great success. I’m sure I celebrated by heading to my bedroom and listening to this:

Here’s the recipe:

2 pkgs of yeast (regular, not fast rising)

¾ cup of warm water

2 cups of lukewarm milk (scalded then cooled)

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon butter (softened)

1 tablespoon of salt

7 to 8 cups of white, all-purpose flour (or 6 to 9, it depends)

Besides the bread bowl, you’ll need two standard bread pans, a wooden spoon (for aesthetics because any kind of big spoon will work), measuring spoons and cups, a stove, an oven, dish towels, rolling pin and a stereo.

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