Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Bread and bacon

The sweetest message received today from Cathy reminded me that I have been away from virtual reality far too long. And I also realized that I was fast slipping into a bout of Januaryitis - a complaint which grabs me by the neck every year, and every year I blame different causes, but really the problem is January. No sooner have we put away the decorations on New Year's Day than I feel the urge to take to my bed and fall into a deep sleep, perhaps waking in time for Valentine's Day.

I was sure that this year would be different, but this morning as I found myself pondering the faces visible in the fabric of the dress I had just ironed, I began to recognize the symptoms.

Luckily the faces weren't speaking to me, for then I really should have fallen very far, but I took myself in hand and decided to make a loaf of bread. Which decision was more momentous than at first it might seem, as I hadn't done this by hand since we bought a breadmaker a couple of years ago.

For those of you out there feeling a bit Januaryish, the recipe is very simple and quick - just take 1lb of strong wholemeal flour (about 400g), 1tsp of salt, 1tsp of dried yeast and 1tsp of dark muscovado sugar, and if it is chilly out, then warm your flour a little first (in an Aga or an airing cupboard). Heap it on the table, make a little volcano hole in the middle, and pour in warm (not hot) water a little at a time, gradually mixing it together with your hands, until the dough holds together. If you put in too much water, just add more flour to absorb it. And then knead January away for about ten minutes.

You need a small, buttered loaf tin - warm this, too, for yeast feels the cold, knead your dough flat, roll the ends in, and push down into the tin. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for half an hour (I use the back of the Aga) and then put in a hot oven (200C) for 20 minutes, until the top is nice and crusty, then remove from the tin, and put back in upside down on the rack for another 5 minutes for the base to crisp up, too. Remove from the oven and admire your homemaking skills.

Making bread completely obliterated the gloom which had descended upon me after spending my day off scrubbing down the kitchen. Bread is delicious material evidence of domestic industry, while shiny worktops will be crumb-bestrewn in a mere trice.

And perhaps part of my melancholy is that I do not have the luxury of affecting Januaryitis any more: as some of you will know, the Head Chef is on the point of departure from the world of paid work. I am quite prepared to regard this as a big adventure, but suddenly find myself with mixed feelings about taking on the role of family breadwinner rather than breadmaker. For the past twenty years of motherhood I have worked part-time and I have to admit, with the benefit of hindsight, it has all been rather nice. It has allowed me to study and create, and always with the thought that I could do a bit of this and that, and chop and change, in the comfort and confidence that the Head Chef was bringing home the bacon.

Well, now the Head Chef will be rearing the bacon, and I am the one marching to the beat of the wage slave.  [I do find his little lists of things to do so very endearing: a wonderful mixture of the rustic and domestic.

What does he want with old pallets, or is that bulk bins? He has obviously taken the books I gave him for Christmas to heart. I hope that he will remember to clean the loos (does he know how to do it properly?)].

Quite serendipitously, I have been able to get more work on the employed and self-employed front, so I will be able to buy lentils, and won't have to eat bacon, but that is as far as the expenditure will be able to go. Unfortunately, I will have to moderate my profligacy on the yarn and haberdashery front, as my skills are not anywhere near as remunerative I would like them to be - I dream about button shops run on the Ginger and Pickles principle.

So, in my usual roundabout way, I have come to the nub of things - more time at the grindstone, and less time at the needle (and in the blogosphere). I need my sleep and have never been one to burn the candle at both ends - quite the opposite, in fact, I prefer to be awake only when it is light. And so at the moment I am having a little trouble making ends meet in the middle. [As evidenced by finding a muddy button in my purse: how did that get there? Did I accept it as change in a shop? The mystery of its provenance is quite maddening.]

So thank you one and all for all your wonderful good wishes over Christmas and the New Year: I have not forgotten you, and will be making my visits as time allows. And when I am absent, just imagine me slaving over a hot keyboard, and demanding that my slippers are warm by the fire when I come home, then falling asleep under a newspaper after supper. Although I think washing the car is really a step too far.


heidi said...

Happy New Year Pomona!!
I know what you mean,i think we are all suffering from a bit of januarytius especially with this weather. we will be ok once we have got into the swing of the new year!! x P.S Bread looks good!

Jennifer said...

There is nothing quite like bread fresh from the oven, I need to make some today in fact. I do hope you are able to move smoothly into your new role and that you are able to get plenty of rest.

...Miss...Maddie's... said...

What ever the challenge I know you are up to it... just remember the old Helen Ready song (although you are probably far to young to remember it sung on the radio) 'I am Woman hear me roar...'
Happy New Year to you and yours!
Susan x

Isobel said...

Happy New Year to you Pomona!
Your bread looks so amazingly delicious! Hope it helped take the Januaryti away!

Lola Nova said...

Happy New Year!
When you are away I shall miss your wonderful posts, of course that means I will savor the all that you have time for.

It is the same here in January, what with the dark mornings and the soggy days...my bed is not so willing to release me when it is time to rise.

Best wishes in your new adventure.

Cottage Garden said...

Happy New Year Pomona!

January certainly has this effect on the soul, I was only bemoaning the onset of January a post or two ago and then blue skies and crisp days lifted my gloom, not to mention the magical white stuff! Even so, I do long for spring.
The best of luck with your work endeavours - I'm self-employed too and time becomes so precious - not enough hours in the day. Take care.

Your bread looks delish!

Jeanne x

Florence and Mary said...

Happy New Year!

Your freshly baked bread looks so good!

Victoria xx

KC'sCourt! said...

I could smell that loaf just by reading the blog, I think I make some but that will have to wait till the weekend!
Our decorations come down on the 1st January too, I ike to start the new year afresh!

Sarah said...

Happy New Year! You can't beat a loaf of homemade bread, especially in the dull and dreary month of January - roll on Spring!

Kate said...

Happy New Year! The very best of luck to you with your work (a daunting thought but I'm sure you'll rise to the challenge) and yes, that bread certainly does look good. Do you still have some hedgerow jam to go with?

Menopausal musing said...

I found myself looking for faces in that fabric.... I also look for pattern repeats in the wallpapers whilst cleaning people's houses and do their ironing. Weird, moi??? I am glad I got in touch because I was wondering... and because January is a month which always just seems to have to be "got" through.....
Good luck with your work (and I mean that to BOTH of you).

marigold jam said...

We are all the same really aren't we? Januaryitis is a deadly disease I know - see my last post - but there are little spots of brightness in there too. That bread looks delicious - how I wish I had an Aga! I may have to make some tomorrow since there was none to be bought this afternoon - panic buying apparently!

Good luck with the job - I am sure you will do marvellously and you might find that you actually get more done when your time is more limited I know I used to!

Jane x

Anonymous said...

Dear Pomona, hope everything works out well and Merry Winter. You have inspired me to make some bread, years ago if I could make something myself I wouldn't buy it from the shops, it seemed a bit lazy so I think I might try and get back into the swing of breadmaking. My eldest daughter would probably put LOL at the end of that but we'll see.

re said...

Bet that loaf of bread didn't last long, nothing beats hot bread straight from the oven, delicious with lashings of butter.

bekimarie said...

I do look forward to your posts and have missed them while you've been gone.I can almost smell that bread, I do love fresh bread, warm with lots of butter. Did you read that I tried your apple muffin recipe, will definately be doing them again.
Thank you for your lovely comment on my blog and the challenge you sent me.
Happy New Year to you and your family
Beki xxx

sarah-jane down the lane said...

I too am in the grip of Januaryitis, it will pass I know, but it will take a lttle while.
I am a dormouse too, more sleeping than anyone else I know!

Good luck with breadwinning endeavours, it will be a different start to the year in that sense, good luck with it x you will be brilliant I am sure,

Sarah x

whoatemycrayons said...

Looks like 2010 is going to be an interesting one at Pomona's cottage. If Head Chef does figure out how to clean the loos, can you send him over to each Mr Crayons please?

Sophie - Chez Sophie said...

Mmmmmmmmmm home made bread, yummy.
Happy New Year.
Luv Sophie xxx

silverpebble said...

Hello again Pomona, it is very good to read you again. Januaryitis is a nasty disease. I am fighting against it as hard as I can. Thankyou for the bread tip as medicine and I'm glad it lifted your dose of this month's gloom for the day.

Does Head Chef's list say 2 old Blankets perhaps? Are they to keep the piggies warm?

I wish you well in the coming year - it sounds challenging but if the depths of winter get to you I spotted bulbs peeping up under the conker tree where we'd planted them last autumn. Little green spikes were pushing above the soil in my front garden too. A heartening thought,


Tabiboo said...

Firstly Happy New Year and the warmest of wishes for 2010 - I feel like I could sleep from October through to Spring, but the recipe for bread looks absolutely scrummy and I think I may give my numbing head a go at this tomorrow, little one being willing that is!!

Nina x

elizabethm said...

So often your posts seem like ones I could have/would have written. I know just what you mean about Januaryitis, and Februaryitis too, and I have been making bread this afternoon. I hope you will still manage to find some time for yourself when you take on more work and time for blogging too. Happy New year, hope you are not over whelmed with snow where you are. We are swimming in the stuff.

jennyflower said...

Will told me today that the shadows on the pavement tell him what is about to happen. Shall I send him to hibernate with you? All best wishes for your year of change. xxx

Gina said...

I wish you well and hope everything works out for you.

Lululiz said...

Darned fine looking loaf of bread!

Serenata said...

A very Happy New Year to you and I hope everything works out well in the end. I know what you mean about wanting to sleep through January. Goodness knows how I am going to get up in time to teach next Tuesday AM! Really struggling with tiredness and the cold at the moment.

I always used to make bread by hand until I got the breadmaker, so I think I might have another go - sounds very therapeutic.

Rosa-Munda said...

Your bread sounds heavenly, and I could feel the warmth of your Aga - bliss. Good luck with the challenges which await you. Ros

Toni Brockliss said...

Gosh you write beautifully.

It is hard to start a new year again. Getting back into the groove after holidays and festivites. Thinking about all that, takes away from thinking and preparing for a new year, so it hits you like a slap to the face.

Your bread looks wonderful. I can almost smell it from here. :)

Happy New Year to you sweet lady.

Frances said...

Best wishes to you Pomona, as this New Year develops its plot line.

Please do write when you can. I definitely know the challenges of sorting out what needs to be done, and what I would love to be doing.

That loaf of bread surely does make me want to bring some butter over to your table. Or even marmalade. xo

Chrissie said...

Best of wishes to all the family for the year ahead. (piggies, hens and doggies included)

Jennifer Montero said...

Balancing economic needs and personal needs and family needs is at the centre of all our lives. I'm looking forward to reading how you 'find your balance' over the coming year.

All best wishes in your new endeavours!

Julia said...

happy new year dearest pomona

i hope the january blues do not ensnare you and that you soon begin to spot signs of the warmth and light returning (our little narcissi are already showing vibrant green shoots in our pots!)

sending love your way, i really enjoy your posts and look forward to following your journey through 2010!

much love
Julia x

The Garden Bell said...

Wow... Forgot all about that bread maker. Now, where is it? Must be found. I can smell your's coming right through the monitor.

Great to see you back in the New Year.

Pipany said...

Pomona, your writing always strikes such a cord with me and I understand totally how you are feeling at all you have ahead. Keep using breadmaking as a means of offloading thoughts. There is something about that kneading; even when time is short it is almost the only way I can grab some me time because I am also tackling a chore (if that makes any sense?). I really hope you still find time for blogging as I would really miss this little place to stop by xx

TheMadHouse said...

Happy New Year and I see faces in that fabric!!!

Amy said...

The January blues have hit me too. Two of my three kids seem to have decided that they don't need sleep though their attitudes/behavior suggest differently. And it is soooo cold out. Sigh. Hang in there. I bet the bread helped!

Michela said...

Hello Pomona! ..not sure to have understood each single word of your beautiful writing, but I wish you all the best for your family life! By the way..your bread looks terrific! xxx

Kelly said...

I have Januaryitis too!
I'm gonna make some bread!!!

Surfer Rosa said...

Such a tough month this - the extreme cold, finances niggling and lethargy overwhelming but the evenings are noticeably lighter and Spring is just around the corner.
I wish you well for this year, a return to work is looming for me in September - I understand how you feel with shifting roles and the new challenges - unsettling certainly but exciting too. Best wishes, Louise

Itch2stitch.com said...

Hello and happy new year! I saw faces in your fabric too. hope you get over the january blues soon! Keep kneading that dough! suzie. xxx


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