Thursday, April 29, 2010

yogurt and herb bread

I am so happy to have this moment to sit down to write. My fingers are so full of energy. My voice, however, is needing a little break. I am thankful to be quiet for a little while, and to let my fingers help me think out loud.
I will be candid with you. I have been spending these days answering question after question. In a small town like this one, after your face is on the front of the local paper, the sidewalk is full of questions. The little market where I go to find my harder-to-find ingredients is full of questions. The liquor store where I stop to get Joey some beer as an appreciation for practically single parenting lately- more questions.
Really, I am happy for the questions. I want to talk to people, and mostly I want to ask them questions of my own. I want to know what they think about what is going on around here.

I tend to hear the same questions many times in a day. They are the questions that one might expect: Why are you inspired to run for town office? What are your hopes for the town? (a playground! a few decent restaurants that I can afford!) Are you totally insane? (anyone who has experience with small town government knows where this question is coming from)

There is one question I never hear, but it has been on my mind lately. People ask me what I do for a living, and I tell them I am a writer, and that I write about food. I tell them that I write online, that I'm working on some magazine pieces, that I'm working on a bigger, well, let's just call it a project, right now. They say, ohhh. And then they change the subject and ask me what I think about finding funds for the library or moving the crosswalks.

They never ask what writing about food has to do with getting involved in local politics.

And that's okay. It is okay that this is a question that only I ask myself, but I hope you will indulge me while I try to give myself an answer.

Let me first say that I have no political ambitions beyond this position. It has taken me this long to call myself a writer, and this is where I want to continue. But a few years ago, when I decided that food was the place for me, and that this was where I wanted more than anything to settle, I came that decision through two channels. The first was that I finally accepted that I was miserable working in any other field. All of my jobs felt like clothes that not only looked bad on me, they didn't fit. Whether it was a size 0 orange tube top, or a size 16 silk blouse, it was all wrong. When I was cooking and talking about cooking, if you will stay with the metaphor for a minute, it was perfect jeans, I mean perfect.
The second channel was a growing sense that I had that food was the real intersection of everything that had become important to me. Family, sustainability, personal responsibility, art, physical health and self-respect, finding joy in the moment; all of these issues come together on the dinner table.
When I left my job in December, I gave myself six months to really work on this, to take the time to cook and write and to see what could come of it. Since then, I have been cooking. And I have been writing. And I have been happy. So, when someone asked me to run for town government, I probably should have said no. After all, I have a few more months of writing to do before I have to decide whether or not to take a waitressing job.
I probably should have said no. Except there is this thing, this place where the two meet. And it nagged and pulled on me until I said yes.

One of the reasons I love to talk with people about cooking is because it is my favorite way to feel empowered, and to help others to feel empowered. Quite literally, instead of eating what gets put in front of you, you can learn how to make your own lunch, and you can make what you want. It's pretty phenomenal. All those issues that food pulls together; family, sustainability, and that whole list- when we start to get empowered and creative in the kitchen, how we deal with those issues becomes just a little bit more under our own control.
Here's another way to think about it. Earlier in the week we were talking about kids cooking and how to help that along. There are all sorts of reasons why the girls ask to cook, but there is one particular interaction which happens here and there:

girls: we hate what's for dinner!
me: then cook dinner yourself!

You get the idea. But so do they. Miraculously, they go and cook something, and when they've made it, they eat it, even if it contains ingredients that they refuse to touch when they've come from me.
I love that, even though it makes me a little mad.

And my decision to participate in local government? That's me learning how to cook something new. I've been complaining and imagining the meals I'd like to eat. I've been eating whatever comes in front of me. I'm thinking it's time to make it myself.

And I think that that is my answer. That's why this makes just the tiniest bit of sense. But I have to tell you that with all of this metaphorical cooking, I haven't been cooking so much new stuff the last week or two. I'm missing it, but all of this will be over in 10 days, and then it's just me and the cookbooks. This week, I've been sticking to the comforting foods I can make with my eyes closed, turnip and turnip greens soup, peppery carbonara. I've been trying to sneak bacon in wherever I can to make up for the times I forget to eat, and that also keeps Joey happy, which is very very important right now. (You, know, the wind beneath my wings and all that).
But there was something this week I wanted to share. A little bread that I made to go with that turnip and turnip greens soup (have you made this soup? It is maybe the best in the world, and I don't care how you feel about turnips), a bread that helped to ease my missing of the oven with minimal work. I chopped herbs from the backyard, and I said hello to the garden that is waiting for me to return. It's a good little bread. It works well with a soup that took you all day as well as one from a can. It should be slathered with butter and dipped into said soup. And so that you don't make crumbs all over your kitchen floor, the bread will insist, like a good husband who knows that you should stop pacing around the kitchen, that you sit for a few minutes to eat it.

Yogurt and Herb Bread
adapted from Mollie Katzen, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat or spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 large beaten eggs
1 cup firm yogurt
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup mixed fresh herbs (I used chives, tarragon, and oregano), coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a loaf pan. Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the center of the bowl.
Beat together the melted butter, eggs, yogurt and honey on high speed with an electric mixer for 3-5 minutes, or until frothy. Add the herbs and mix well.
Pour the liquid/ herb mixture into the well in the dry ingredients. Mix with a spoon until thoroughly blended.
Pour into a well-buttered loaf pan, and bake 40-50 minutes until a knife, when inserted, comes out clean.


  1. Good for you! What an exciting adventure. I think food and politics make great sense on so many levels. Just think how much more would get done if the Democrats made fresh bread for the Republicans or the Republicans baked the Dems a chocolate cake? Kidding aside, congrats on being bold and taking chances!

  2. that's one of the prettiest tables i've ever seen, a

  3. Love you, love this post, love that turnip soup (which I had forgotten about, can you believe it, until just now, reading. Eureka, is all I can say. Can't wait to make it.) And food has everything to do with society, and the quest for a good one of those has everything to do, I think, with why you're just enough of right kind of crazy to run for small-town office. BTW, as I drove through GB yesterday and saw one of your (lovely) signs, I thought: "Alana could be president." It's true. I'd vote for you. And you'd have the best kitchen cabinet ever. xx

  4. Oh, Paige, making me blush. I think I'd be a bad president really, always insisting that I have time to make dinner for my kids...