A response to “What’s for dinner?”

Dianne Sylvan asked this question inĀ  a blog post yesterday, and I wanted to take time to do a more extensive response – both ’cause she’s a friend, and bec ause it’s part of my “I should talk about this sustainable priestessing thing here” goal for this year and this blog.

So, here goes: this post has a quickish overview of where my food habits are at the moment, where they’ve been over the past 18 months, and some staple meals that seem to be working pretty well for me, even if I’m tired.

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a retreat: taking time

I’m currently in the midst of a two and a half day retreat focusing on a longtime interest of mine that I’ve been feeling blocked about for, well, years.

Anyway, I thought I’d do some comments on how, why, and when I do retreat work (and hopefully, by the time I’m done, my subconscious will have sorted out the next step in what I’m working on.)

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Bread addendum

Conversation with a friend about my bread recipe reminded me of something.

When I say cinnamon, I actually do mean cinnamon. However, most stuff sold as cinnamon in the US is actually cassia, a closely related tree that’s less expensive to harvest. I tend to prefer actual cinnamon.

I buy almost all of my culinary herbs from Penzey’s (http://penzeys.com, but I’m lucky to have two stores within easy driving distance.)

They’ve got the advantage of being a remarkably inexpensive pick-me-up. Not only is just walking into their store space is a fantastic experience of scent (all of their stuff is available in smellable test containers), but their prices are such that I can walk out with 5 or 6 different small bottles of things for under $20. (And since I’m only cooking for myself, usually, this goes a long way.

While they’re not necessarily organic, they are very good about marking sources (and about indicating clearly what’s in mixes.) And their herbs and other items are consistently high quality, flavorful, and enjoyable to work with.

Currently on my herb storage shelf:

  • Ceylon cinnamon (ground, since I usually use it in bread.)
  • Dill weed (which I adore)
  • Rosemary (my current bottle is from Spain, and powdered, which I like in bread at times.)
  • Sweet Basil (French, as opposed to Californian: I like both, and tend to alternate.)
  • Cardamon (Guatemalan ground)
  • Orange peel (dried)
  • Nutmeg (West Indies, ground – yes, I know, really, I should grind it myself, but in practice, I never manage that.)
  • Tellicherry Black Pepper
  • Parsley
  • Spearmint
  • Powdered wasabi (lovely in a little dusting in the center of onigiri.)

I also like several of their cheese mixes, and go through vast amounts of their Green Goddess dressing mix (which goes *very* well with a yogurt base: it makes a very nice dip. It does have a little sugar in it, however.)

I’m currently out of – but should get more of – their freeze dried onions, shallots, and chives, all of which are great when I want a little bit of something, but don’t want to make an extra trip to the store.

On bread

This is going to get long: I warn you now.

A couple of years ago, I began baking bread. I do it for ritual, I do it to eat at home. I bring it to potlucks (as I mentioned, it’s a money-cheap way to bring something people will love for potluck).

Here’s how I do it, with some links to some other options. Note that these are optimised for my particular preferences and needs (and I talk about what those are, as we go along). Adjust as makes sense to you.

Things that affect my baking:

  • I am short: I hate kneading on the counter because it’s totally the wrong height. I knead in a mixing bowl, sitting on the floor so I can put my upper body into it. This is admittedly weird. Knead on the counter/table if you prefer.
  • I live in a little tiny house. It has a little tiny oven (just big enough for a standard baking sheet, one rack, etc.) I am not fancy about my baking.
  • I have very little storage space: I do not own a baking stone, fascinating other baking tools, or a mixer: I just don’t have space for them. This is the fairly minimalist version.
  • I am aiming for ‘good bread’, usually, not the ‘ultimate best bread ever’. Those usually take more time than I realistically have.
  • My preference for bread is a lighter (less chewy) crust, and reasonably dense. Your preferences may vary – the resources section has some other places to go learn more about variations.

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Coven syncronicity

Something to be going on with, while I get through my last week of work before the summer. (Working for a school has some schedule benefits. The not-getting-paid for 3 months of time off, however, is not the fun part.)

So, tonight, I show up at L’s home, my covenmate, for what was supposed to be a scheduled role-playing game night (we play about once a month with several of my former groupmates. Yes, we’re geeks, but we have fun.) Due to computer emergencies requiring urgent repair, gaming got cancelled while I was on my way there. So, we hang out, she feeds me fabulous food (hamburgers from humanely raised reasonably local cow, and homemade hamburger buns, and and…), and somewhere in the food prep, I say

Me: Hey – I tried out new adventures in bread baking last night. I made pita bread.

L: You did? I did too!

We blink at each other in mutual amusement, comment about how it was surprisingly easy and fun, and we plan to do it again. We wander off to other subjects, and sometime later…

Me: Y’know, when I did the pita bread, I ended up using half whole wheat: it came out surprisingly well, I was really pleased.

L (looking at me slightly oddly): I did too. And yes – they did come out well.

We wander off to other topics again. Another 20 minutes down the line…

Me: Ok, I’d ask if you used honey and olive oil, but that’s probably a given.

L: Yes. But yes.

(Those being our general preferences for bread baking for the sugar + fat component in bread when needed.)

At this point, I decided I should probably blog it, just for everyone else’s amusement.

Ah, well. We’re nicely matched up, at least. And we can talk endlessly about making good bread. There are far worse things to have in the world.