Sketchbook: J. D. Salinger

Once I had an argument with two guys in a bar (I know, right?).  One of them contended that “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” by J. D. Salinger was the best short story ever written in English.  Another suggested the true answer was, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” by Earnest Hemingway.  I, of course, knew that the answer was “The Dead” by James Joyce, though after I read the Hemingway I was willing to admit it to second place.

Today I sat down and read “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” because I felt like reading some Salinger and I don’t currently own a copy of A Catcher in the Rye.  It’s a really good short story, definitely solid enough for third place.  It made me think about how all three of these great works of fiction are centered around death.  There are plenty of short stories and novels about love, but it seems like only through looking at death do we really create literature that examines The Human Condition.

It’s a theory, anyway.  (Most of my favorite books have both love and death in them – Ulysses, The Great Gatsby…)

Salinger was 91 so this isn’t exactly a surprise.  Whether he has a closet full of unpublished novels or not, I wish him the best.  He was a guy who really liked to write, and I can respect that.

#297: [untitled]

I’m actually feeling somewhat better about this, which is why I decided to post it.  B suggested when I drew it on Wednesday that I should wait and see how I felt come Friday.   I’d say that was an intelligent thing to point out though.  Also I couldn’t think of anything better and now it is late.

Bread diaries part two: Spinach Feta Bread

So I could not have fucked this recipe up more than I did, but the bread still came out very good.  The feta could have been better distributed throughout the bread, and the loaves are a little flat (probably due to my shaping more than to them rising too long).  But overall I’d say an AB attempt.  B liked it too.

Recipe – you can read the original here.  Below is what I actually used/did.

Continue reading “Bread diaries part two: Spinach Feta Bread”

#296: Touché, Sir

This weekend we went shopping for wedding rings.

This is actually the most sexist/awkward Wedding Industrial Complex thing we’ve done since we started planning the wedding.  First I had to explain to two separate people at the (large chain) jewelry store that I didn’t want a ring with diamonds and I didn’t want platinum, I just wanted a plain band that matched B’s.  Then there was this lovely comment.

For the record, most of the people we’ve worked with have been extremely professional when hearing of our rather non-traditional plans.  I mean, we wouldn’t be working with them if they had been rude or derogatory.  Maybe that’s why I was a little surprised when the salesman came out with this.

Bread Diaries

I’ve been trying to learn to bake bread.  Real bread, with yeast in it (quick breads, like banana breads, are much easier – I do those all the time).  It has been hit and miss so far.

Here’s my base recipe:

2 cups all-purpose enriched unbleached flour
1 cup bread flour (or all-purpose flour, if you do not have bread flour)
1 teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup sugar
1 cup warm milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 – 1/2 cup lukewarm water

(Taken from here.)

Directions:

1. Mix ingredients and knead for about 7-10 min.

2. Put in an oiled bowl and let it rise for 90 minutes.

3. Punch down and form loaf.  Let it rise another hour or so.

4. Put a pan of water in the bottom of the oven to create a crispy crust.  Bake at 350 for 40-45 min. until the bottom sounds hollow when you tap it.

Attempt 1: Whole Wheat Bread

I used only whole wheat flour.  I also used molasses instead of sugar.  The first rise was 90 minutes, the second was 60.

The bread came out very dense.  I should have used more yeast to compensate for the whole wheat flour.  Also, I didn’t punch it down enough and I let it rise too long on the second time, so it was pretty much done rising before it went into the oven – bad news.

Verdict: I liked the flavor, B thought it was too dense.  Eventually made good French toast.

Attempt 2: The Cheese Bread

Having learned my lessons, I used 2.5 c. white flour and 1/2 c. whole wheat.  I increased the yeast to 2 tsp. and used brown sugar instead of molasses or white sugar.  I also used buttermilk because I was out of plain.  The first rise was 90 min.  When I punched it down, I rolled it out and put cheese (shredded sharp cheddar) on the middle third, then folded the two sides over.  Then I put a little more cheese on and rolled it up.  The second rise was 45 minutes.

Verdict: Airy and awesome, with just enough bite to the crust.  If I had one complaint, it would be that the cheese wasn’t randomly distributed throughout the bread enough (should add some in during the flour mixing stage).

Attempt 3: Cinnamon Bread

Oh boy, just when I thought I had this nailed…

I again split the flour 2.5/.5, but I sprinkled the bread with whole wheat instead of white when I kneaded it (last week I used white).  Two tsp yeast, brown sugar, and plain milk instead of buttermilk.  I also put some cinnamon, cloves, and pumpkin pie spice in the flour.  Then after it was rising, I checked out another post that said that cinnamon retards the yeast, so you should use more when making a cinnamon bread!  Oops.  That said, I’m not sure I would have known the difference if I hadn’t read that.

After the first rise, I rolled it out and moistened the top with water.  Then I sprinkled on a mixture of cinnamon and white sugar (maybe 2 T. and 3/8 c.?).  I rolled it up, then decided it was too long and thin and flattened it and rolled it up again.  I think that was a mistake.  When I baked it, the sugar melted and a lot came out on the baking sheet because I didn’t adequately tuck the ends.  Also, the bread was too tall and there was an undercooked spot in the middle.  I’m not worried because it has no eggs, but it seemed unprofessional.

Verdict: B thought it was great.  I am slightly less pleased than I was last week…but I have to admit it is tasty bread, with a nice crumb and enough cinnamon to be noticeable.  I will have to come up with a better technique for rolling it.

Well, back to the drawing board.

Em oi! #294: Suffragette City

Lucy Stone (sometimes Lucy Stone Blackwell) was one of those interesting figures from early feminist history.  She put herself through college, lectured all across the South on abolition and women’s rights, wore bloomers, kept her hair short, and still managed to get married and have a daughter (who herself was also a feminist and college educated – Alice Stone Blackwell).

Her husband, Henry Browne Blackwell, allegedly proposed within an hour of their first meeting (he’d seen her speak previously, and was a fan).  She said no, but two years later they got married.  I guess he convinced her.

Cabbage, Potato, and Carrot Soup

I have a lot of holiday recipes to add, but I’m going to start with this soup.  It is not a visually attractive soup, lacking the striking green of a blended broccoli soup or the popping colors of a black bean and squash chili.  Instead it’s somewhat brown and orange, since it consists of cabbage, potatoes, and carrots.  But it is tasty, easy, and relatively simple, which is nice this time of year when people feel overwhelmed by highly caloric, highly complex holiday food.

I made this a year ago and lost the recipe, so this time I used this one.

Ingredients

  • 1-2 T. olive oil
  • 1/2 onion (sweet white), minced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 large potato, washed and chopped (don’t bother to peel it)
  • about 1/2 bag matchstick carrots
  • slightly less than 1/2 of a small green cabbage, chopped into small pieces
  • 3 c. water + 3 cubes veggie bouillon
  • seasoning: oregano, basil, rosemary, dill, red pepper flakes, coriander, salt, pepper

Methodology

  1. Put a large pot on the stove to heat.  Add olive oil, then veggies as you are done cutting them up.  Mix.
  2. Add water, bouillon, and seasoning (not salt and pepper yet but everything else).
  3. Cover and simmer until potatoes and carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.
  4. Turn off the stove.  Ladle the veg (as best you can – don’t have to get it all) into the Cuisinart and puree it.  Add the puree back into the broth and let it heat on low for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve with parmesan, bread, etc.

Notes

  • I didn’t make this very spicy.  It also could have used more salt.  Still, it was very tasty, and not as heavy as almost everything else I’ve eaten recently.  That’s a plus.