Where we go in our heads depends, too, on what we’re baking. Different things bring up different thoughts or memories. Maybe it’s the smell of the individual ingredients or the cooking foods. I read once that the sense of smell is the sense that most stirs memories. I haven’t eaten bacon in at least 30 years, but, to this day, when I smell it frying, I’m transported immediately and completely to 1962 and my grandparents’ house in Hobart, Oklahoma. The smells of tomatoes and wet dirt have the same effect, and transport me to the same spot.
Yesterday, I baked cinnamon raisin bread. The kitchen was filled with the wonderful smell of warm dough and baking sugar. It was heaven. I should have been floating back to my grandmother’s house in Hobart, where I sat at the kitchen table, watching her bake wonderfully plump loaves of white bread for supper while she chattered on about people I would never meet. I was small and in awe of everything she did. I loved my grandmother and grandfather more than it seemed possible to love anyone. They were the happiest, easiest place in the world for me, and they offered that kind of unconditional love that only adoring grandparents can. I should have been embraced, right there and then, by the memory of that comforting aroma mixing with the hot summer morning air, of the sound of her voice, and the touch of the ever so light breeze from the fan on my moist skin.
But no. That’s not where my mind wandered yesterday. Nor was I thinking about curtains or my career (though I really ought to be—think about my career, not curtains, that is). For whatever reason, I was thinking about one of Evan’s old girlfriends.
Evan is an amazing man. Kind, generous of heart, brilliant, funny, beautiful inside and out, he is a man who hangs on to old people like nothing I have ever seen. I don’t mean “old” as in aged; I mean “old” as in “old girlfriends.” Primarily the kind of old girlfriends who really, really should have been discarded pretty soon after they became current girlfriends.
I’m not sure why, but the men in his family do this. More accurately, they permit old girlfriends to hang on to them. Most likely, it’s because they don’t know how to move away from people who continue to cling desperately to them, or because they can’t be bad guys, or because they allow themselves to be laden with the guilt others bestow upon them like carefully wrapped gifts, but they say it’s because of something else. Since I’ve never gotten an answer that didn’t incorporate into it muttering through a hand or into a glass, I’ll trail off here….
The most recent one, gone now for a few years, only stopped bothering us recently. She called, wrote e-mail messages, and sent why-don’t-you-love-me-anymore cards and letters long after Evan and I had started coming home to the same house. She’ll flair up again one day, of this I have little doubt, but more about that another time and another recipe.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. It isn’t that I don’t absolutely adore having Old Girlfriend on the scene. She’s added a spice to everything. Old Girlfriend is a treasure, really, entirely worth keeping. I’m too mundane a person to fully appreciate her charm and glitter, of this I am aware. Yes, you heard me correctly, glitter.
OG pretends she’s a fairy. Oh, sorry—how very pedestrian of me—that’s fayrie. Or is it faerie? Anyway, she makes fairy wings out of wire hangers, tinted pantyhose and glitter glue in a rainbow of colors. And, I suspect in furtherance of the fairy…fayrie…faerie?…persona, she dusts herself with glitter, as a sort of accent, I guess, to the fairyfayriefaerie essence she perpetually sports.
OG is not a hypocrite, producing wings merely for retail sale, I’ll have you know. She wears those wings. Yes, wings, on her clothing. Permanently attached, protruding over her shoulders, flapping about with every sudden movement. And, just in case the wings don’t bring enough attention, she favors push up bras that assist the skin of perhaps once ample breasts to be gathered up in a mass of, well, skin, and shoved over the top of her necklines.
So, we have boobs oozing out of the top of the costume de jour, a wing twitching at each shoulder, and glitter. How petty would I be to not have absolutely adored the never faltering presence of this, our very own, sparkling, jiggling, flapping 50 year old fairyfayriefaerie?
We were fortunate enough to keep up with OG’s every thought and move after she and Evan broke up since she is her very favorite topic ever. Until recently, she provided updates in long, rambling, creatively spelled dissertations in which she happily filled in Evan on her latest hobbies and pastimes—nude modeling and attending belly dancing classes—while reminding him of how misunderstood, yet sweetly forgiving, she remains--“Maybe one day that horrendous bitch will allow you to remember our
I may have paraphrased.
So, these were my thoughts as I baked this delicious cinnamon raisin bread. I thought about the Faux FairyFayrieFaerie and felt mildly pissed off that I even had to think about such things, that I would ever have to wonder when she’ll grace us again with her glittery, jiggly wingedness.
The good part, though, is that it’s cathartic. I go through a range of emotions until I hit contentment, and that’s when I realize, each time, that my life feels good. I’m reminded that memories aren’t always happy or warm, but that, most often, they have something to offer. If we learn from the past, elect not to repeat unpleasant histories, decide to create happier, more conscious futures, we’ll be okay. I’ll be okay. I won’t feel pissed and I will have deliciously warm cinnamon raisin bread. And, best of all, I’ll have Evan.
Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Yield 3 loaves
1/2 cups milk (I used 2% with no difference to the taste or consistency)
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2 packages active dry yeast
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup raisins
8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1. Proof your yeast by dissolving one package of yeast in a warm bowl filled with ½ cup of warm water and 1 teaspoon sugar; do the same with the other package of yeast in a separate bowl. (The water and sugar is a part of the ingredients above, not in addition to them.) Set both bowls aside until their contents are foamy.
2. When yeast is proofed, add to it eggs, the remaining sugar, butter, salt and raisins. Stir in milk.
3. Add the flour, a cup at a time, to the mixture. The dough will remain sticky.
4. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes. Oil a large, warm bowl and place the still sticky dough in, turning to oil the surface. Cover with a damp cloth and put in a warm, draft free place until it has doubled.
5. Once the dough has risen, roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a large rectangle, approximately ½ inch thick, 26 inches long and 14 inches wide.
6. Moisten the surface of the dough with 2 tablespoons milk.
8. Roll up as tightly as possible (the roll will be about 5 inches in diameter). You will take the 26 inch side farthest from you, and roll toward your body.
9. Cut into thirds, and tuck the ends under. Place each loaf into well greased 9 x 5 inch bread pan. Lightly oil tops of loaves. Put in warm, draft free place and allow to rise again for 1 hour.
10. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until loaves are lightly browned and sound hollow when knocked. (Using a convection oven, I baked my bread at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.)
11. Remove loaves from pans, and brush with melted butter. Let cool before slicing.
My bread didn’t have the swirl it was supposed to have and I suspect that’s because I didn’t roll it tightly enough. It’s not especially sweet, and I think I would add more sugar to the dough. I don’t love cinnamon, so I would probably reduce that. Evan, however, who doesn’t like cinnamon particularly or cooked fruit, loved it.
Geez, do you think OG, with her FairyFayrieFaerie powers, knew what nasty things I was thinking about her and put a FairyFayrieFaerie (okay, that’s the last one, I promise) hex on my bread?
Next time, I think I’ll make the swirl chocolate. There isn’t a way on earth that can ever be bad.