Sunday, December 02, 2007

When Food Stars Align

By my own declaration (and that of most people who have eaten my cooking) I’m a pretty good cook. Ninety-five percent of the time whatever I prepare is edible and sometimes exceptionally so. Food is one of my great pleasures, and when I am unable to enjoy it, either from time or illness, I’d rather just not eat.

The idea got into my head while on the phone with a friend earlier. He spent the weekend suffering from sinus congestion as many of us find ourselves doing now (Austin has been named Fall Allergy Capital of the United States).

He had just eaten the food he craves when ill. I commented that I don’t eat when I don’t feel well. As we talked, he commented on eating as a matter of necessity. He sees food as important and finds a way to eat even when not feeling well. I admire that quality because I’ve never been able to do it. If I can’t enjoy it, I just won’t eat.

Throughout the conversation, I could smell the bread then baking in the oven. I have purchased only one loaf of bread since Christmas 1999 when my mother gave me a bread maker. The bread maker has been in the closet since I moved to Austin and came out of the closet. I much prefer to make bread by hand now. Sunday afternoon and evening, whenever possible, is reserved for bread making.

Just like the bulk of food I prepare, I have no set recipe for bread. Bread simply consists of flour, milk, egg, salt, yeast – and anything else one wants to add to give it some zing or zest. Today I went with dried cranberries which I had run through the food processor briefly.

Occasionally the food-stars align and the dish I make comes out exceptionally well. Today was one of those days and the bread rose beautifully and symmetrically, browned evenly, and contained the perfect texture on the inside.

Don’t believe me – here’s photo evidence!

I think tomorrow night, I’ll be having peanut butter and jelly French toast with cranberry bread!

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