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Chicken and Grits – with a loaf of bread, to boot

Yes, we’re still eating. Granted, I haven’t had much of an appetite since Wednesday morning, but we’re still eating.

Being creative in the kitchen helps to focus me. And lawsy knows I need a bit of focus, right now.

Baking bread is the ultimate in calming. There’s something about flour and water coming together to create something totally different than either item, alone, that is pretty much a recipe for what we should be doing as a people.

Flour, water, salt, yeast… Four things totally different – they look different, they act different. They come from different places. Each on their own has something to give – and all four of them together create something truly magical. Each offers up itself to become something greater than their individual selves.

I’ve always maintained that food is the great equalizer. That if we would just sit down together at table and share our different foods, we would be in a better place.

As a kid growing up, our neighborhood was a mini-UN. We had kids from all over the world as our friends and playmates. Directly across the street were Filipinos. At 6 years of age I was eating Lumpia and Pancit and Adobo. How can you possibly hate a group of people who make Lumpia?!?

When Uncle Sam’s Yacht Club brought me to The Philippines, I was right at home. I had heard Tagalog being spoken for 13 or so years. It wasn’t foreign. I knew the culture and now I got to see where my best friends were from. I got away from Subic Bay and Olongapo City and traveled up to Manila, to Baguio, to really see the country.

In Hong Kong we went way out in the New Territories to the Red China border. We didn’t take a tour – we took the Star Ferry to Kowloon, a train to Sheng Shui, and a rickety local bus to the border point. Americans were not allowed in China, but I stuck my foot through the fence at the border. The land on one side of the fence looked just like the land on the other. The people were all the same – it was just a line drawn by someone. Again, the food. Growing up in San Francisco gave me free reign in Chinatown. The one thing I found out was how different the Chinese food in San Francisco was compared to the Chinese food in China. I ate it with gusto because it was just so good. Noodles are noodles – you really don’t need to know what’s being mixed up with them when it tastes so awesome.

The best omelette I have ever eaten in my life was made by a Malaysian man in Singapore – in a wok on a street corner. He spoke no English but he knew how to take some of the freshest ingredients around and turn them into a fiery-hot plate of feathery-light eggs and vegetables and peppers and herbs. I can still see his gold-toothed smiling face as I swooned while eating. It was seriously one of the greatest things I have ever eaten.

Hearing different languages being spoken as a child piqued my curiosity. It made me wonder what was being said – how they could understand one another using all of those different sounds. And sitting around the table, playing games – mahjong with the Aunties or poker with Uncle Joe – was like sitting around my own house with my own relatives. Everyone talked at once, everyone ate, drank, laughed – it was all the same.

Because we are all the same.

The song from South Pacific plays in my mind a lot.

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

I was lucky. I was eating Lumpia.

And tonight it was Grits. From Adluh in Columbia, South Carolina. Best grits around. Of course, being married to an Italian, we call it polenta. Same thing. Different name. Shrimp and Grits, Polenta and Scampi.

We’re all the same.

 

I added some sweet potatoes left from the other night and floured the chicken in Adluh’s Palmetto Dust – “A roasted garlic pepper breader that can be used as a coating for fish, chicken, pork, green tomatoes, pickles or onion rings.”  It was really good. Even Nonna ate it all!

I made the bread with King Arthur Artisan Bread Flour.

Multi-Grain Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (100° to 115°, approximately)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1/2 cup rye flour

Directions

Combine the yeast with sugar and warm water in a large bowl and allow to proof. Mix the salt with the flour and add to the yeast mixture, a cup at a time, until you have a stiff dough. Remove to a lightly floured board and knead until no longer sticky, about 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary. Place in a buttered bowl and turn to coat the surface with butter. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1½ to 2 hours.

Punch down the dough. Turn out on a floured board and shape into a round. Place on a baking sheet that has been sprinkled with cornmeal. Preheat oven to 400°F and let rise until doubled. Bake 35 minutes, or until well browned and hollow sounding when the top is rapped.

Carefully taught.

 

 

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