daily bread

Here in Otsego County, meteorological summer finally hits right about the time I’m busiest at the opera house. Luckily, the sun rises early; assuming I’m able to haul my weary carcass out of bed, there are at least a few moments to enjoy the garden before putting in another long day (and night) at the theater.

This morning, as I multitasked madly, I was reminded of my last visit to the Farmers’ Museum, a 19th-century “village” populated with folks going about what would have been their daily work—an apothecary grinding pills, a blacksmith making horseshoes, etc. The last time I went, I stepped into a rural homestead where the woman of the house was preparing to keep her family fed for the day ahead. She stoked the fire, checked some cheese in progress, picked over some berries, and sawed up an old loaf to make toast.

2009 version: I got home from teaching yoga a little after 9:00. I quickly chopped up a couple of potatoes, tossed them with oil and salt, and put them in a hot oven. Then I filled the coffee pot, plugged it in, and went to gather some greens in the garden. I cut some tender leaf lettuce for my breakfast and pulled up some sturdier romaine to share with colleagues at the opera. Came in, poured coffee (I have one of those nice coffeepots that allow you to pull out the carafe before it’s finished brewing), washed greens, then cut and wrapped a couple of wedges of leftover chard frittata to take to the theater for lunch and dinner. Then I mixed up some Bittman/Lahey inspired no-knead bread. My version uses two glasses of white flour, one of wheat, and a little more than a glass and a half of water, plus some salt and yeast. And a copious amount of cornmeal at the end… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Potatoes still weren’t done, so I took my coffee outside to inspect the garden. There’s still not too much to see—most of the plants haven’t even flowered. But there are a few little peas on the vines…very tempting.
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Came in, put the last of the ricotta on top of the potatoes and stuck the pan under the broiler for a few moments while I turned the lettuce out of its towel and tore it into the bowl. Then dumped potato/cheese goodness on top, stirred to wilt and….breakfast! Packed up my frittata and went to work. Tonight or tomorrow morning I’ll bake the bread.

I’m not saying I could feed a family three meals a day, day after day, in a 19th-century kitchen. Those women had skills and patience—and time—that I will never have. But of course, we have our own burdens to bear—long hours at work and more distractions than ever. Not to mention plenty of more convenient options for feeding ourselves. The thing is, there was nothing terribly inconveniencing about my morning. I was out the door by 10:00, both fed and satisfied.

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