Saturday, January 12, 2008

Kneading Bread and a House Concert

What in the world do these two things have in common? Shabbat-Shalom-Around-Town, Temple Micah’s yearly home-style Shabbat celebration.

I hadn’t made challah in years, but I just had the urge to make bread today in preparation for my dinner for 8 tonight. I had forgotten how good the warm yeast smells. I had forgotten how therapeutic kneading bread can be. I had forgotten how much I like to braid the long strands of dough together, making a second little braid to adorn the bigger one.

My challah didn’t exactly look like the above picture because as it rose during the baking, the braids largely disappeared. But it tasted authentic and my guests all wanted a hunk to take home, so it must have been OK.

Tonight’s guests happened to be people we have known for years at Temple Micah. There was a 76-year-old widow. There was a couple who are probably 65. There was a second couple who are probably close to our age and her 90-year-old mother.

Tonight’s dinner was part of the “Israel at 60" year-long celebration so the menu focused on Israeli foods and we listened to David’s collection of Israeli music while we ate. We had hummous and baba ghanouj, courtesy of my guests. There was a tomato soup with Israeli couscous. The main dish was a chicken curry with apples served with brown rice. Dessert was a fruit compote made with mixed dried fruits and port, served over ice cream.

In between the main course and dessert we had a small “house concert.” The 90-year-old woman, who has been teaching piano for 60 years, played a beautiful Schubert piece. Her daughter, who plays the clarinet in a local orchestra, and I played a short Faure duet. We had never even rehearsed the piece together and still it came off quite well, largely due to the fact that she is a professional musician. She had the challenge of having to transpose her part, which was written for flute. I then played my Chopin Etude, which is definitely still a work in progress. This experience reminded me of how people in times past would entertain themselves.

Our dessert conversation turned to politics. One guest conducted a poll of those present which came out: Hillary 4, Edwards 3, Obama 1. No Republicans in the crowd. But one person admitted that if it were a choice between McCain and Hillary, he would vote for McCain!

The dishes are mostly done. We have an annoying water problem coming from under the tiles in front of the refrigerator, but fortunately it seems to be a rather slow leak somewhere. It will just have to wait until tomorrow.

It was a long day, but we managed to pull off a fairly complicated meal with no arguments. I would like to dream about making beautiful music. Or maybe kneading bread.


Blogger Pauline said...

As usual, when reading your post I felt like I'd been there. Isn't making bread one of our most satisfactory experiences? And then to eat it warm from the oven...

And did you dream of making music?

8:41 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Pauline -- It was one of those sound-sleeping dreamless nights, or so it seemed.

I get to make music for real today with my friend Deborah, who is coming over to play and help eat last night's leftovers. That's always better than dreaming about it. Except in a dream I can avoid making the mistakes I always make in real life.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Kellyann Brown said...

I love the feel of risen bread in my hand, there is something so "alive" to it. Just like fresh spinach, so full of energy!

11:55 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kelly -- I quite agree about bread dough. There is something so satisfying about turning and kneading. Maybe because so many senses are impacted.

12:04 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I can't believe how active you are socially! You always seem to be hosting and entertaining and cooking for people! And you know such a variety of unique people. You are amazing to me.

I've never made bread but some day I'll try a simple one.

8:23 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

MOI -- You should try making bread. The only tricky part is getting the temperature right while it is rising. The pilot light in a gas oven is perfect. Your house will smell wonderful while it is baking!

11:40 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I so love stories of how you spend your time; you have such a rich and active life.

11:50 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

I used to help my mom with bread making.

I have tried on my own, but for some reason it never comes out. My dough just never seems to rise the right way.

Baking bread is not something I can do.

5:23 PM  

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