Tuesday, May 17, 2005

More from the library; or, an exercise in excessive footnote recursion

For most of Sunday and Monday, our internet connection was down. No surprise there; it had been a while since Communicomm had toyed with our livelihoods, so I suppose we had it coming. I was trying to work on some writing jobs. The s.o. was trying to check up on some of his eBay auctions. But the little "cable" light on our cable modem just kept on blinking. It mocked us.

I called the technical support line. Communicomm is in the habit of leaving timely little messages for you to listen to while you're on hold. The one I got Monday told me that the internet was down in the Eatonton, Ga., area, and if that was my problem, I might as well hang up because they were already apprised of it. I hung up.

So we went to the library to check our e-mail and take care of some business. It wasn't too busy, so I got to use a really nice new computer. The screensaver was an illustration of Brer Rabbit. (Have I mentioned lately how amused I still am by the name of the Uncle Remus Regional Library System?)

I was done with my business before the s.o. was done with his*, so I started wandering the stacks. I've been too busy and scatterbrained lately to do any serious reading, and I already have two books in my queue, so I didn't need more fiction. Naturally, I headed for the cookbooks. I found two must-haves almost immediately: Shirley Corriher's CookWise and the Africa volume of the Time-Life Foods of the World series.

Unfortunately, now I've decided I have to own both of them**. We are trolling eBay for them and watching the appropriate auctions. So much for the frugality of using the library.

This evening I tried to apply some of the science I'd learned from CookWise to the bread I was baking. I used the same Deborah Madison recipe I used last time I made wheat bread, but I varied my method. I left the dough a lot wetter, used my KitchenAid mixer instead of my hands to knead it, and as a result got a much more dramatic rise. In fact, for the first time ever, I managed to OVERRISE my bread. I wasn't prepared for that--in the past my problem has always been the opposite. There was a slight spillover during the first rise, and then (since I hadn't read the part about overrising and didn't know how sorely the dough needed to be punched into submission) an overambitious second rise that could not quite support itself.

Well, live and learn. And anyway, even though the bread is slightly saddle-shaped, it is still very good. Instead of dense and hippie-ish like last time, it is tender and holey. It's all good.

* I don't suppose I need to tell you that when we finally got back home, the internet was back up.

** In fact, we are considering buying a complete set of the Time-Life series, which (if we are successful in doing so) might mean that I will eventually be selling my existing China and India volumes. If we do that, I will post a link to the auctions, because I firmly believe that these are some of the best cookbooks ever written.***

*** I am beginning to think that the authors of Sundays at the Moosewood Restaurant borrowed quite liberally from this series. Their Ethiopian recipes, especially, are quite similar. If I find out that the British Isles volume contains the Moosewoodian anecdote about shouting "Death to the Red Hag!" when eating colcannon****, I will know I was right. And more power to 'em if so, because they added yet another fantastic cookbook to the canon.

**** Second mention of colcannon this week, FWIW.