Kneading Each Other

It’s the little things. Small gestures given freely. Each evening my wife Val makes sure that my coffee is programed for the next morning (she drinks tea). She understands the daily ritual that our coffee hour is our bonding time. She understands how much cream I like in that coffee, and that I only drink two cups. I know how she likes her Manhattan’s, how much vermouth to rye whiskey, with two drops of bitters.

These small things nurture our marriage. I bring this attentiveness into the world when I leave the farm. If farming is the what, then the farmers market is the why. Our relationships there add to the richness in our life. The Covid pandemic has completely changed our experience at the market. Val’s compromised immune system requires that she self isolate on the farm during this pandemic, to stay as safe as possible. When I go to the market on Wednesday’s I am in my own section on a slower day. Customers are not allowed to touch the produce or soap products that we sell. Everyone is required to wear masks. There is hand-sanitizer in multiple locations at our stall. You learn to read the eyes above the masks for clues about each other. Are those eyes playful, warm or anxious? There is an overall feeling of being AWOL from the usual fullness of our exchange. We give virtual “hugs”, which only underscores their absence; somehow elbow bumping just doesn’t do it.

Then Shalini appears at our stall. She comes bearing gifts of garam marsala, black salt, amchoor powder (dry mango) and Tamarind-Date Chutney. She gives me tips about how to make Indian greens and Channa (chickpea salad). She also brings the warmth of her smile. I consider Shalini my spiritual mentor of sorts. She loves Jesus, I’m not religious, yet her sense of humanity, compassion and grace comes through in our conversations. She leads by example. She shares that there are times in order to find common ground with others, she must keep her heart open and simply speak human to human. “We are all human after all. We are all suffering in our own ways. I’ve made a personal decision that if someone needs a hug, they will receive one from me. regardless of the situation we find ourselves in.”

I immediately stop what I am doing and walk purposefully around the stalls to where she is standing. We embrace, and I am awash in the sweet necessity of human contact. Something intangible is exchanged; the unseen, enters and we are nourished. We simply need each other as human beings. On the other side of this pandemic, I’m looking forward to breaking bread together once again.

I first made this bread recipe over 30 years ago. It floated up in my consciousness after Val and I had harvested and dried dill seed from the farm. It is a no-knead bread with terrific flavor. I used our own dehydrated onions as well, but the real treat is when you toast it. The scent of dill and onions will fill your home. Don’t spare the butter!

NO-KNEAD DILL ONION BREAD

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 cup cottage cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon dill seed
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 1 farm fresh egg
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of Maldon or other flake salt
Mixed dill/onion dough, ready for the oven
Dill/Onion Bread straight from the oven, coated with butter and salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Soften yeast in warm water; let stand for 10 minutes.
  2. Mix cottage cheese, sugar, butter, salt and baking soda together in a large mixing bowl. I use my Kitchen-Aid mixer with paddle attachment. You can mix this at this stage with a wooden spoon or whisk. Add dill seed, dried onion, eggs and yeast mixture. Mix well.
  3. Gradually add flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, on medium speed. If you are doing this manually, you can also mix this with your hands. The dough will be sticky. It dough seems too sticky, add another tablespoon or two of flour.
  4. Cover bowl with a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm place until double in size, about 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 2 quart round baking dish. Gently spoon dough into prepared dish. Bake in center rack in preheated oven until golden brown, about 30-35 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven; brush with butter and sprinkle with flake salt. Let bread cool 5 minutes before transferring from the baking dish to a cooling rack.

“True life is lived when tiny changes occur.” –Leo Tolstoy

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