Learning the Forgotten Ways

Fermenting carrots and ginger, and sourdough starter …

What seems like a long time ago now, when I was a single mother of two, I had mastered a small repertoire of recipes and baking was not included. I was the stovetop queen of East Harlem. So after I moved to California and then got married (and quickly had two more kids,) I was proud of myself when I started baking muffins and other treats. I felt pretty smart when I also started canning the vegetables and fruits that my husband grew in abundance in our little backyard. Even so, when we moved here to Greenville almost nine years ago, I was still a virgin bread baker. I had never used yeast for anything. But I was no virgin to eating bread, and have always preferred it fresh.

I started off with a bread machine that I have since gotten rid of after I realized that most good bread rises twice, and you have to flirt with it for a few minutes in between rises to get the best out of it. For a little while I thought I had arrived after turning out some beautifully braided challah loaves, Belgian waffles and seasonal cinnamon rolls. I also admired the rows of pickled peppers, cucumbers, and cabbage on my pantry shelves. But after awhile I wasn’t satisfied. It was all foreplay, the yeast in my baking goods, the vinegar in my canned goods, the carbonation in my soda.

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A Man Among Giants

On July 2 of 2017 there was rain and wind on Paris Mountain. I was reclining in front of the TV, but a lightning storm was interrupting the signal. Then I heard a very loud crack and a bang that brought me instantly to my feet.

A giant tree about a hundred years old, which has been leaning from our neighbor’s side of the creek, had finally fallen. Within a second or two it brought three of our trees, probably about fifty or sixty years old, down with it. The splitting trunk of one of those trees must have been the crack that I heard.

First I thought of Mr. Mims and called him to make sure he wasn’t under there somewhere. Thankfully, he wasn’t.┬áIt’s not like he didn’t already have a list of summer tasks he wanted to accomplish. Ever since that day, between tilling and sowing and watering and mowing, he has been steadily untangling those trees. The first goal was to clear our drive. Now it’s still about taking apart a puzzle to get at the motherlode. He goes in there with the chainsaw and then the boys go in and clear and sort. We have no shortage of firewood anyway.

I have to say I am full of admiration for my man… and I don’t mind fixing him whatever he wants for dinner….

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