First bread

It’s been years since I had a decent kitchen—decades perhaps. Thinking about it, I don’t think I ever had a kitchen where I was really satisfied. Now I do.

I’d have taken this apartment anyway, but I nearly wet myself with glee when I first saw the kitchen. Right from the start working in here was a pleasure. There are separate storage, prep, cooking and clean-up spaces, each just the right size for one.

Click ‘em for larger.
My workable, if not dream, kitchen.
My workable, if not dream, kitchen.
Table space.
Desk and bookcase in the table space.
Of course, there’s the table space too, but I really don’t need it for a table, so that’s where my desk and bookcase live.

I made one change right away. I had my dad make a microwave shelf for over the stove. That made things just right. It’s not perfect—there’s no electric on stove/sink wall, and the freezer could be bigger—but it’s workable nonetheless.

Since then, I’ve been cooking, rather than just making food. Quickly I ran up against some issues. First, I’m horribly rusty once out of the comfort zone of a half-dozen meals I could prepare in a square foot.

Second, my repertoire is limited by my upbringing. I come from a meat and potatoes background. Vegetables were reserved for special occasions (and even then they came out of cans), and salad was had only for summer holidays. Herbs, spices and sauces were frowned upon because you didn’t need them if you bought good meat.

Thus, I have limited grounding in the nuts and bolts of how different stuff goes together from the market to the table.

So I’ve been on the hunt for new and tasty recipes. I struck gold with a new cookbook, The Pleasures of Cooking for One by Judith Jones. Jones was Julia Child’s book editor. I never thought of cookbooks having editors before, yet Jones has edited dozens of them, from all the best cooks.

Widowed in 1996, she has changed her approach to shopping, cooking and eating to scale it for one. Her experience in the kitchen and at the table in the intervening years has brought her to a place that I’d like to be.

The Pleasures of Cooking for One follows the whole of the market to table path of mealmaking. Shopping for one, building from what’s available this week, substitutions, and planning ahead for leftovers all get equal billing with what goes in the pan and how to cook it.

She offers solutions to several problems I frequently face, like what do to with the remaining milk in the quart after I’ve used that half-cup of it in the mashed potatoes? I love roast pork tenderloin, but tire of if three days in a row. What can perk up the second and third go ‘rounds?

I have a particular problem with Italian sausage. There are always an odd number of links in the package, and the links themselves have grown recently at my preferred grocery store, but not by so much that I can use just one at a time. She shares her solution to this very problem, with a fritatta—something I love, but have never made at home, because I don’t have cooked sausage lying about!

What’s also different from the hundreds of other cookbooks I’ve brought home from work is that it’s not about how to spend the entire evening in the kitchen, or making impressive dishes out of weird, rare and expensive ingredients.

Jones has a day job and making dinner for her is the means to the end of day. That’s how it is for me. I like cooking, I like eating, but they’re not the point of of life. They’re a means to an end. But still, why not enjoy it as you go along.

I’ve tried several of her sensible dishes from ingredients I already keep on hand, and they’ve been marvelous. A Potato Dish for Julia [Child] has quickly become a favorite. It’s giving me the confidence to go ahead and try other things, like several lamb dishes. And there’s not a mention of mint jelly in any of them.

I’m not quite there yet for the liver, kidney, or tongue dishes, but I can see where she’s going with them.

Jones also encourages experimentation and substitution. It’s been a good season for venison in my family and several beef and lamb dishes look like they’ll be equally yummy with Bambi instead of Elsie or Lambchop.

The final chapter is about baking for one. Like most people, I love baked goods. I’ve never had a kitchen where I really could bake, and frankly a lot of it intimidated me. And, trust me on this, I really don’t need six dozen cookies at a time.

One solution, is icebox cookies—dough you make ahead of time and keep in the fridge, slicing off and baking a few cookies’ worth at a time. Who knew? I’ve been making icebox cookies a couple of times a week since I learned.

But cookies, cakes and pastries aren’t my favorite. I love bread.

If asked, my mother will tell stories of how horrified she was when, as a toddler (remember, this was back in the 50s), I’d tear into a loaf while still sitting in the grocery cart the minute her back was turned. While common today, half a century ago, grazing your way through the grocery store was simply not done.

Click ‘em for larger.
First loaf, cooling from the oven.
My first loaf, cooling from the oven.
Sliced and ready to eat.
Sliced and ready to eat.
My grandmother would take me to the bakery, offer me cookies, and I’d ask for bread. Such a child!

The Pleasures of Cooking for One has a recipe for a baguette for one, with a little left over dough to make a pizza for one. I’ll get there, but I wanted to start with the basic loaf. Surfing for recipes, I found one, a beginner’s basic loaf, that sounded perfect.

I wish I could share with you how nice this smells and tastes. You’ll just have to go with the pictures.

This is my first loaf, which I made last night.

It was easy, it was fun, it was delicious, and it’s gone.

2 Responses to “First bread”

  1. Vonnie Says:

    Oh, I must get that cookbook! I run into problems when the kids aren’t home and I have to cook for myself. I end up eating one thing all week (Christmas week: Chicken. Every. Single. Day.) and I don’t get enough veggies. Since the kids are growing up and going to leave soon, I think it would really behoove me to get that cookbook and start to practice!
    p.s. I’ve missed you 🙂 I realized I haven’t read you since Oct or so, when I took in my laptop in for repairs.

  2. Paul Calewarts Says:

    After I started cooking with sourdough, I gave my bread machine away. I have a ton of different starters if you want to give it a try. I’d be happy to give you some starters to try.

    Paul Calewarts
    AKA FloridaBiker