Bread, in All its Glorious Forms

One of my goals this fall has been to master the art of making bread.  Of course, that’s not my only goal, not by a long shot.  But it’s a personal sort of thing that pays dividends in its own unique way.  Bread isn’t the sort of thing you think about when asked for 6 things you couldn’t live without, but try to go without it for a month- actively avoid bread or bready things- and you’ll find very quickly how connected we are as a people to our bread. And one thing I’ve noticed is that we’re connected to LOUSY bread.  Have you ever been to one of those “artisan bread” bakeries, where the loaves look like something from a European cuisine magazine photo shoot.  Well, that’s what bread is supposed to look like.  That fancy looking stuff is simpler and healthier for you than plain ol’ wunderbred. I recall when I was in high school my mom brought home a loaf of dark rye bread with a label that said, “Russian Peasant Bread.”  I then read the ingredients label to discover dozens of ingredients, many of which I could pronounce only because I was in AP chemistry.  From that point forward we called it “Russian Chemist Bread” for all the science that had to go into making a loaf of bread. I used to make bread with a bread maker on a regular basis.  But if you use the thing like the directions say, you end up with this uninteresting, dense, and curiously shaped loaf of carbs.  I run a lot, so carbs are a good thing...

Ride It Like You Stole It

I rode my motorcycle to school today.  Then to the pottery studio.  Then to school, then to get gas and home.  It was a whole day on my bike.  Actually, it was 10 minutes on my bike, then life, then 10 minutes, then life, etc.  But it worked.  I have a (mostly) functioning and legal motorcycle. Last Wednesday my friend Mark came over and pointed out a painfully obvious fact: motorcycles need gas.  I had left the fuel shut-off valve in the “on” position and irrigated the garage with 4-month-old gasoline.  I guess in a way it solved a problem; I don’t have to drain the tank to put fresh gas in.  We filled the tank with fresh gas and a miracle product called Sea Foam. I’m not sure if anyone knows what Sea Foam is made out from (Unicorns? Rainbows? Hopes and dream?) but by all accounts it’s the best stuff on earth for motorcycle engines.  I read the bottle as I was pouring it into the tank, and it claims to “Increase Lubricity.”  I’m not even sure lubricity is a word, but with a claim like that, it has to be amazing. So, after some fresh gas, and a dope slap, the engine started right up.  And stalled.  But Mark has a firm hand with stubborn motorcycles and we concluded that it just needs to have the idle screw adjusted.  Then we drank beer. This morning, with a little free time and a little will (not to mention a dozen tools, none of which I needed), I went to work trying to find the idle screw.  The...

Dog Days are Over

It’s fall break now.  I think I may have mentioned in previous posts that I didn’t get a fall break in undergrad, so they still come as a shock to me in grad school.  Basically, I don’t have class again until next Wednesday.  Some would argue that I’ve never had class. In Michigan it’s cold already.  Not so in NC.  However, it’s very much fall.  The heat wave outlasted everyone’s predictions, but broke abruptly 2 weeks ago with days and days of solid rain.  When the clouds parted autumn shone forth with its golden tinges and pumpkin spiced scents.  Now is the season of county fairs, corn mazes (maize maze?), hot cider, oktoberfestbier, and sweaters. This morning I went to the farmers market to see a new collection of gourds and late summer greens, onions, breads, and sun-worn farmers just starting to lose the intense tanned hues of a southern summer.  I filled my bag with the last of the tomatoes and began my education in the bounty of local apples.  The tomatoes are becoming scarcer, and some vendors sell them green, for frying.  Brian from Homeland Creamery sells his whole milk and homemade butter and watches the crowds with eyes that have seen at least seven decades of growing seasons.  The bounty of this land practically writes a script for cooking seasonally. To honor the end of summer and the beginning of (my) bliss, here is a...

The Maiden Voyage

All the stars aligned yesterday.  Or perhaps things finally went the way they should have gone in the first place:  I got to ride my motorcycle. Granted, rush hour on Friday is not the time I’d usually pick to have a -getting-to-know-you session with a motorcycle.  Especially one that has displayed a fairly temperamental tendency to stall.  But one must strike while the iron is hot, as they say.  So, with boots, denim, leather, and a matte black helmet, I took to the streets of the Starmount neighborhood like hell on wheels.  Or perhaps more like heck on wheels.  The speed limit is 25 here, after all. I meandered the windy subdivision roads, practiced stopping, clutching, turning, signaling, and not falling over.  It feels very natural, as if I’ve been doing it for a while.  I’m pretty sure my brain has it all figured out, considering how many motorcycle dreams I’ve had over the past 4 months.  The bike is smooth and responsive, comfortable in size, handling, and power, and the weather was perfect.  Perfect in a way that only a southern fall day can be; crisp and beautiful, full of promises for weeks more just like this.  I was glad for the chance to be out, rush hour or no. I was out for about 2 miles when I came to a stop sign.  I’m not a pro with the clutch yet, so I stalled it.  No big deal, just restart it and go.  Except that it wouldn’t restart.  I puzzled over it for a few minutes, and suddenly it roared back to life.  I shrugged, shifted into...

The Other Shoe Drops

Poor Stella.  My 2002 Yamaha Vino, which somehow got named Stella, got stolen last fall.  And through some strange twist of luck, the police recovered her.  Mostly. Last spring, after I had initiated the search/acquisition process for my motorcycle (which I have not named yet), the police called with news about my scooter.  It had been recovered in the next town over, so I went with my buddy Kevin to pick it up.  I may have blogged about it last spring, but I may never know since windoze ate my blog.  Regardless, Stella was a mess. The mirrors were torn off, as was the luggage rack on the back.  The electrical systems were torn up so they could hot wire it.  The lock to the truck was ripped out, and every body panel was cracked or broken.  Sigh. Over the summer my friend Mark let me garage my motorcycle and my scooter at his place.  He had made mention of possibly buying the broken scooter off of me and getting it back in running shape.  It didn’t happen. So with the delivery of my motorcycle comes the delivery of some broken memories.  Stella, you were a part of my life for a long time.  But now I need to sell you on...