Monday, April 4, 2011

Bread, Jazz, and Tradition

When Rosemary Clooney belts out "BLUES IN THE NIGHT" bread dough behaves.

It is most often 11:00 p.m. on the farm when we settle in for some bread making. Farmer Shane goes out to stoke up the fire in the greenhouse, and I turn on whatever Jazz is to hand.

Then begins the preparations for tomorrow's crusty loaves for sandwiches and scones for breakfast.

Somehow it is the only music that suits at that hour.

The snare drum and yeast must be distant cousins...they get on like a house on fire.

“Blues is to jazz what yeast is to bread. Without it, it's flat.”

Carmen McRae, Jazz vocalist and pianist. (1920-1994)

These late night rituals are a participation in multiple traditions.

It goes without saying that breadmaking is an old art...

“If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.”Robert Browning (1812-1889)

I think, wherever they are now, all of our great grandmothers must be pleased when we make our own forays into the world of crust and crumb. We are carrying a torch of tradition when we pummel our doughs with might and main upon the kitchen counter.

"Now the rain's a-fallin, hear the train a-callin HOOOOO-EEEEEE!"lyrics from Blues in the Night by Arlen and Mercer

My own grandma was a singer in a trio not so long ago. She was a bombshell blonde with chesty voice that could melt butter...(and my Grandpa's heart.) We're talking glimmering matching evening gowns, a record contract, and that

bold brassy sound that gets you up out of your chair and dancing around your kitchen. So when I'm adding water to flour and yeast and salt, and crooning along with Rosemary I am being enfolded into layer upon layer of family tradition, both culinary and musical.

In the morning I greet my girls with soft bread spread thick with jam or clasping wedges of cheese...warm with the memory of duets sung with those who have gone before me.
"[Breadbaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world's sweetest smells...there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel. that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread."M. F. K. Fisher, ‘The Art of Eating’

"my Mama done told me...when I was in pigtails....Uhhhummmmm" Blues in the Night

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