Oh, mes cheres, are there any of you left? I wouldn’t blame you, certainly, if there weren’t – I hinted to you that I was doing NaBloPoMo, and then I dropped off the face of the planet. I’m sorry, again. I got cold feet about NaBloPoMo, and then things happened. Like life. It’s actually a sheer miracle that I’m updating this today – I have written 21 pages of class papers this weekend (in the past three days), including a scientific paper for ecology, which was written with my amazing housemate, thank goodness. We’ve had colds, a sinus infection, lots of rain, and lots of leaves this November (fortunately, the colds weren’t mine; and neither was the sinus infection). I started running five days a week, even though this is my off season; I’ve had all of my midterms, and I have an ecology quiz tomorrow (this is a brutal week in ecology). On Thursday, my house (along with the rest of my school) are piling into the one tiny movie theatre here to watch the midnight premier of Harry Potter – and then, I will be on a plane going back to Colorado to spend Thanksgiving with my family. It will be the first time since September that I will disband from my housemates (my adopted family, really), and while I’m excited, I’m also scared.
Because: and here’s the big news, so hold onto your hat – there are three weeks of school (including finals) after Thanksgiving break. And then, I will be heading home until the end of January, when I will be traveling to Mexico to study at a field studies site for the semester. I will be looking at coastal ecology, marine resource development and more. I will be leaving behind my school, my country, my language (for the most part), and immersing myself in an experience I didn’t anticipate. I will know no one. My best friend from school and I, by the time we re-unite, will not have seen each other for more than a year. I will not see any of my housemates for almost eight months (two of them) and four months (one of them). When I return from Mexico, I will be at home for about three weeks; I will then be on official hiatus for almost six weeks because I will be in Jordan, working on an archaeological excavation and traveling (with the same housemate I wrote the ecology paper with). I am having all of these new experiences this year, and I have the next seven months of my life planned out – but only in theoreticals. I’m telling you all this now (after disappearing on you for three weeks) in part because I don’t want to forget to tell you, but also because it’s getting closer, and therefore, it’s becoming all the more real, which is very intimidating. The good news, however, is that I am planning to incorporate a travel aspect to this blog as of next year (2011!), and that, at least while I’m in Mexico, I plan to still update every week.
Without further ado, then, I will take you all out of my RL and put you back in my kitchen. Back in the last week of October, my ecology class drove up the mountains to about 5000 ft to look at succession. I was driving one of the vans and my professor was driving the other. While we had been told there might be snow, I am a) from Colorado, and therefore don’t really expect it to snow at 5000 ft in Washington and b) used to driving in snow. However, as we got higher and higher, and there was more and more snow, it became increasingly apparent this would be a problem – and then we got stuck. I hadn’t seen the professor in quite a while. He finally drove back down to us (after getting stuck himself, higher up), and we had a big fiasco getting our van turned around. The point to this real life story is that by the time I got back down (where it was still raining) all I wanted was something warm. Hot chocolate was the first thing, and then was followed by soup (more on this in my next post, which I writing right after this, I promise!).
Soup, for me, absolutely cannot be had without good bread. As I have previously mentioned, but not corroborated, I love to make bread. It can be an incredibly trying, frustrating experience. Nonetheless, there is nothing like the satisfaction of homemade bread, and this is no exception. It produces two large, crispy loaves of bread. I make mine vegan for my vegan housemate, although you could easily add an egg or milk wash to make it even better. This serves beautifully with soups, pastas, salads – whatever you need it for. I later used the extras to make a delicious grilled cheese.
Whole Wheat French Bread (Adapted from my mum’s recipe)
Makes two large loaves
2 packages of dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3 tbsp and a pinch of sugar
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups hot tap water (plus extra, as needed)
4 cups all-purpose flour (you could try bread flour here – I’m uncertain of the advantages, but it might result in a crispier bread, for a true “French”-style bread)
2 cups whole wheat flour
Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water with a pinch of sugar – this will help the yeast get started. Allow to sit for about five minutes, or until the yeast is bubbling. In the bowl of a mixer, combine sugar, salt, olive oil, and water. Add the yeast, and, one cup at a time, add in the flour. Mix in the flour until it is well incorporated – I have occasionally had this produce a very tough loaf – add some extra water and don’t fret – the early stages of kneading seem to work this out. Cover the dough with a towel. After ten minutes, gently flatten the dough. Repeat every ten minutes five times. Divide the dough in half on a floured surface before rolling into large baguettes. Sprinkle some cornmeal on two cookie sheets, and then place a loaf on each. Allow to rise until doubled. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with another cookie sheet inside. Cut slashes in each baguette and coat with milk, if desired. When the oven is ready, toss half a cup of ice into the interior cookie sheet, then place the two baguettes in the oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped.