The proverbial 10, 15, 25 pounds. Many years ago I grew disgusted with the extra weight I was carrying and vowed I would do something about it. I did the South Beach Diet. For two weeks no bread, rice, pasta, or potatoes. NO fruit, just protein and vegetables. I grew to love ricotta cheese with stevia, coco powder and 10 almonds (my reward at the end of the day). After those first weeks I slowly added back a diverse diet. Four months later, 25 plus pounds were gone and I loved my body. I was thrilled, I kept it off. Every once in awhile I returned to the first two weeks when I saw the pounds beginning to creep back. It still worked.
Then about 18 months ago I remembered bread baking. I don’t remember how it began except I wanted to find a way to make a sour dough starter with yogurt. I had kept the weight off, I could dance on the wild side. I went to New Season’s and found a book Artisan Baking, by Maggie Glezer. The book should of had a warning label, “Take care, don’t go too fast. Could be trouble ahead”. Unknowingly I dove in. I reunited my spirit with my passion for the interaction between flour, water & yeast. I bought a better scale for weighing ingredients, a second coiled basket for shaping loaves, and ordered flour off the internet. I bought more bread books. I studied Peter Reinhart’s techniques. I even tried to go to a workshop he was doing in New Mexico. I couldn’t make enough bread.
I tried the easy recipes, using commercial yeast, the harder ones that only used a sour dough starter to rise the bread. Every few days I diligently refreshed my starter keeping it in top condition. I made starter with white flour, wheat flour, a special semolina flour. I experimented with mashes, soakers, mother starters, and all types of pre-ferments. I played with different ways to create the perfect temperature for rising. Finally a friend made me a device that has a light bulb connected to a temperature gauge. Perfect! Bread became easier to make.
In the course of all this a starter in a plastic container was melted in my oven. I bought a new oven.
The months have gone by and I’m still passionate about making bread. I’ve settled on a few types: basic sour dough with a combination of wheat and white flours (my weekly staple), ciabatta and focaccia occasionally, and I spent about a month making only anadama. I look for occasions to bring bread so I can make it more often. I’ll make you pizza with a homemade dough if you like. I love fresh bread dipped in olive oil when the crust is crunchy and the crumb is soft and chewey. I love toast that is done just enough to bring out the natural sweetness. I am amazed how a good bread actually can get better after a few days. Julia Child said you can never have enough butter. I say you can never have enough bread. Isn’t it one of the major food groups?
Are you surprised when I confess the pounds are back? It’s December 31st, 2009. I want to lose this weight. What to do? I could do only rice, dal & vegetables again. That worked. I lost a lot of weight, but no leavened bread there, only chapati’s. I told my friends that I was never excited but always satisfied. It was a tapas (a discipline). Then when I stopped, my body held onto every calorie it got. I don’t know what happened. Maybe my body just said,“whoopee, new food”. Or I could do the six small meals a day, every two hours. I did that. Make it weird, get my body confused so it burns calories all the time. No bread in that one either and it’s really boring. One dish meals. I wasn’t entertained and neither was my palate. I’ve thought about Weight Watchers but I don’t want to pay money to lose weight.
I know, I know; small portions, more exercise, French women smoke…
There’s a saying I heard: you can love to eat and not cook, but you can’t love to cook and not love to eat. Guess which camp I fall into?
I’m leaning towards South Beach but I have another confession, I love wine. I like drinking wine. I’m sure I like it more than I used to when I first did South Beach. If you didn’t figure it out – no wine or beer in this one. Notice, this diet isn’t called the Portland diet! I like to try different wines. An interesting label can hook me anytime or the ones that are the sleepers – really good and not expensive. I like visiting local wineries and the wine tastings around town. A glass of wine at the end of the day is my time to muse. I find wine romantic. Sharing a glass of wine with friends is like the dream of travel when it was exotic, not security lines and too many people. If I lived other lives I would expect I traveled to far off countries on big ocean liners, sat in deck chairs, lived a useless life. I’m a sucker for a period English movie.
But I’ve drifted off. So here’s the rub. The proverbial 10, 15, 25 pounds. What’s a foodie to do? I’ll let you know.