Last week I made bread. For-real, from-scratch, French Bread. (Well. I’ve never really been to France, only through it on the way to Italy, but the Rombauers call it French. And it tastes like the French bread from the Bread Co., so I’ll take it.) If this were a food blog, which it’s not, I would post pictures of my lovely twin baguettes for folks to ooh and aah over. But I haven’t taken any, and anyway. Not a food blog. Anyway, I used the recipe from my Joy of Cooking, with only one substitution born of necessity and the fact that we don’t use up shortening before it goes bad.
I think this is the first time I’ve used Joy since I ripped out her spine and gave her a newer, prettier, less-falling-apart binding. To tell the truth, I was a little hesitant to, because a lot of time and effort went into that binding, believe you me. But books were made to be used. Especially Joy. (We’re on first-name terms now, since we got so close during the whole rebinding effort.)
Waxing poetic on my pretty book done, I’d like to get to the point: waxing poetic on bread and breadmaking. When the Irma and Marion (who were St. Louisans, btw) first self-published Joy of Cooking in 1931, eighty years ago!?, they expected it to be used daily by home cooks who wanted to broaden their repertoire. People (women) actually made bread, regularly, for their families! I assume, I mean. Wonder Bread had been around for at least half a decade in pre-sliced form, but there were fewer convenience foods, at least. How amazing would it be to have fresh bread almost every day, or even a couple of times a week? Without having to go to the bakery and pay more, and with the added bonus of your whole house smelling like bread all day. I’m sold right there.
Now, I’m not advocating returning to the values of yore (that’s a different blog post), but maybe a return to some of the food values? Less with the fast food chains and more with food made by hand out of identifiable things. Plants, meats, eggs, grains. Cheeses! These are good things.
One of my former roommates, who cooked and baked from scratch, once told me she’d never met anyone who made her own stock. Of course, the fact that she told me this while I was simmering up a pot of chicken stock sort of negated her claim, but the point’s the same. Why do so few of us make staples like chicken stock and bread from scratch? Convenience, I guess. Speed. I mean, I use a ton of pre-grated cheese, which is sort of a silly thing, but it’s easy.
I guess my point here is that food is good. Real food is better. And I hope that by making it more often I spoil convenience foods for myself, like I’ve spoiled store-bought pie for my family with rich butter crusts and decadent fillings.