Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Dream unrealized

You never know when, in the interest of national security, you are going to find yourself on your own. No, the President didn't call. But it was the government in general. The Navy, specifically, which took Josh off again just after we returned from a few days in Kansas.

Those were a few lovely days with our family, otherwise spent lecturing Josh on how whole my world would be if he would let me live on that little farm there. I could grow fruit and veggies to my heart's content. Write in a quiet place. Have the unmatched luxury of a child who plays with her cousins.

In my dreamy world there is lovely bread which leaps out of my own oven. Not some kind of Italian artisinal affair, but a good bread. I am not picky about what sort of bread even, just any good bread. But, like a failing magician doomed to play Reno forever, I never (and I mean never) can pull the proverbial bread rabbit out of the hat. I have tried for years and I am being frustratingly literal.

There is precious little good reason for these failures because I can use yeast well and fearlessly. I love the stuff and have never had it fall down on the job. I can make pizza dough and sweet rolls with neary a split second of self-doubt. No, yeast and the rising process are not the mystery. It is the texture which has eluded me always: In every kitchen, in pans, on baking stones, and with every sort of flour. The texture which has previously left its ragged scar on my kitchen confidence is a dense consistency which is too mealy for tea-sandwich bread and too heavy for, well, frankly, any other bread-like purpose. It has always been what I imagine wood glue would be like if it were leavened and baked, and has characteristically tasted just as lovely as wood glue surely does. For years, I have toiled and plodded in the bread-making without bread-maker arena without a loaf I could say came even remotely close to acceptable bread. Some, however, have been useful as teethers, others made very salty croutons, but most were worthy of one purpose only: compost.

Now we come to the most important part: I am not a quitter. Not when all the road signs are heavily against my reaching the end of the journey successfully, not when years of waste have gone into my stubbornness, not even when you beg me to stop, will I accept that I cannot get to where I want to go. Only sometimes, I have to take the whole sorry endeavor underground because my efforts have worn out their welcome among the kind people forced to eat my efforts. I am still determined to get there, I am just allowing other, absent people to assume I have finally thrown down my goal and accepted weekly trips to the bakery. Not so. Not, by a long shot.

Josh has gone off on a ship which literally takes many days to get where it is going. And it is still three days before my family arrives. For the moment, it is just my daughter and I, so, I am at it again: Bread recipes all over the kitchen table, flour in my hair. Single-visioned and unstoppable.

Unfortunately, this means there is nothing much to eat today. The baby is a bit of a gourmand herself and will tolerate, if need be, a bit of avocado and brown rice for lunch (now that she insists on feeding herself), followed by miniature slices of apple or sweet potato. But as far as feeding myself, I am up a creek without a picnic. When that happens while I am visiting Florida, the afore-mentioned infant and I will often be found at a very casual dockside seafood lunch spot which makes a shrimp sandwich no one should miss, though many do.

Just out of the way of most of the universe, by the shrimp boats tied up in historic Mayport harbor, is a gem of a seafood market called Safe Harbor (they do not have a website) which will grill a handful of marinated big fresh shrimp just off the boat. They place them on a roll with crisp iceberg lettuce, a very ripe tomato, a few slices of red onion, and a key lime butter which I think might also have a bit of Adobo in it. But I do not want to know for sure. And I will not try to recreate it for you. It would be all wrong: It should be by the water, with condiments in beer six-pack boxes. It should only be found near the shrimp fleets. It should always be a refuge, a safe harbor, if you will: From bread. From the internet. From everything.

No comments: