On Tuesday evening I began making a loaf of bread. I have had good success in raising the dough overnight on the first prove, and so I thought I would try it on the second prove. This is not too hard to do, even in the evening. The tricks are to warm the flour-and-salt in a bowl in the not-too-hot oven before mixing in the yeast and lukewarm liquid and then to cover the warm buttered bowl in which you prove the dough with plastic wrap or a warm pie plate (or both) for an hour or more before bed. Then you need to punch it and knead the dough for 3 minutes and put it back in the proving bowl, plastic wrap on top, on the kitchen counter. Then you can go to bed confident of having fresh bread by late morning.
When you get up, you merely punch the very swollen dough, knead it for another 3 minutes, and then tuck it in a buttered bread tin. You put the piece of plastic wrap (maybe put a little butter or oil on it now) on the bread tin and put the whole in the warmest room until the dough has risen into a "bread shape" over the tin. Into a very hot oven (425 F) it goes for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 400F for another 15 minutes, then take the bread out of the oven, shake it out of the tin, and put it back in the oven on its side at 350 F for the last 15 minutes. Finally, you put it on a wire rack on the counter and let it cool completely before cutting it open.
I have been making bread this way once a week for a month. I've been adjusting the recipe to make it lighter and fluffier on the inside. First I cut the amount of whole wheat flour I had been using. Then I cut it again. Then on Tuesday I enriched the warm water with milk. The result made B.A. very happy this Wednesday, so I will stick to that.
We still had a third of a loaf of bread from the previous week in our larger cookie tin, and I was very unwilling to either throw it away (an obscene act in many cultures, including the Polish) or feed it to the birds, since I am unconvinced bread is good for birds. I decided to cut it into cubes and make big croutons. I put the cubes in a bowl, poured in some olive oil, scattered in a teaspoon of garlic powder and toasted them in the oven for 20 minutes. Half way through I threw in some salt (having thought of it rather late) and turned them over. They have an ear-deafening crunch, are quite delicious, and are a great substitute for commercial snacks.
The third bread of Wednesday was filo pastry, which came from a supermarket. Nobody ever suggests you make your own filo pastry from scratch, but obviously Greek women must have done it for centuries, so I'll look into the technique. But on Wednesday I just took the filo out of the fridge to make spanakopita, cheese and spinach pie. This is a lovely way to have a meatless Wednesday. Naturally pious Greeks have recipes for eggless, cheeseless spanakopita for Lent, which they are still observing.
On Wednesday morning, while my bread was proving, I began once more to read The Holy Bread of Eternal Life: Restoring Eucharistic Reverence in an Age of Impiety by Dr. Peter Kwasniewski. I promised to write a review months ago, and I feel rather bad I haven't done it yet. The thing is, I got a bit depressed. My days are full of anger and dismay--both feeling it and invoking it in others with my reportage--and so the anger and dismay in the Preface were too much. If you live a flat, peaceable existence, the Preface will probably perk you up and make you giggle.
Also, I really love the rich yet scholarly tone of Kwasniewski's liturgical works--he is a splendid writer, employing all kinds of gorgeous and inventive imagery--and so the move to polemics and exhortation was, at first, a disappointment. This is not his fault, of course. But I had to put the book aside for a bit and get used to the idea of Kwasniewski the Thundering Preacher.
On Wednesday morning I felt ready to pick up the book again, and so I did. I discovered I had read up to page 21, but I began from the beginning so I will have the whole fresh in my mind when I finally write the review. The writing is still good and original: chapter one begins with an invitation to imagine eating the sun.
I wasted some time yesterday pondering good quality, made-in-England handbags and shoes. I also sinned against my budget by impulse-buying a pair of "only worn once" secondhand Elmdale ("Made in England") courts. The cost was only £16 including postage, thankfully, so I am not furious. Also, they arrived just now while I was writing about The Holy Bread of Eternal Life, which was amazingly quick. They are now on my feet and they will do for church.
£16 is a fraction of the amount I was seriously considering spending on a pair of Joseph Cheaney Oxford brogues. I'm not sure if this would be a worthy investment or simply vanity. I had an image of myself striding through the countryside in country tweed and rubber-soled Cheaneys with a Labrador retriever and another of myself in town in city tweed and leather-soled Cheaneys with a pug. As I have never wanted a Labrador retriever, I began to doubt my motives.
Shoes are symbolic of identity and wealth, and having too few shoes reminds me of myself at my very poorest, during my undergraduate days when I couldn't afford boots for some reason. My dear friend Trish surprised me a pair of second-hand police boots, which was lovely and I will be eternally grateful, for there had been holes in my current shoes and my feet were often damp and cold.
The problem with women's shoes is similar to that of women's clothes: they are not good value for money and they do not last. This may be because women-in-the-world like to buy a variety of clothes, whereas men do not. It is almost a secondary sexual characteristic that men dress exactly the same for the most formal events whereas women are embarrassed at the event when they see another woman in the same dress. ("Who wore it better?)
However, I think "fast fashion" is terrible for the environment--and enriches the Chinese Communist Party at the expense of its sweatshop slaves--and I would rather have a few good quality clothes and shoes that last for years and years than a closet of stuff. The question is, would they really last for years and years? And, given that age is warping my poor feet, would it not be better just to buy a £55 pair of Josef Seibel velcro-strapped shoes every year?
It's the Battle of the Josephs. Please vote:
Josef Seibel £55 x 6 = £330 (Made in Hungary)
Joseph Cheaney £325 (Made in England)
By the way, aging-feet issues mean I can never walk in even mid-heeled shoes again, so I'm afraid it's a choice between the tweed-and-walking shoes, knee-length skirt-with ballerina flats, and maxiskirt-with-sandals versions of feminine dress for me from now on. No more amusing confections from Irregular Choice.