There many things I wanted to be in life. Good was not one of them. This was probably due to the fact that I was under the yoke of “good” for more than half of my life: the good girl, the good student, the good musician, the good friend. Being “good” was a too tight girdle. I wanted to be audacious. I yearned to be the sassy songstress belting out a tune while dancing the tango atop the cafeteria table; wished to be the one who snuck out of my bedroom window in the middle of the night to howl at the moon; I dreamed of stowing away on a ship to make my way in a foreign land drinking spider web tea and eating smoked camel jerky. Instead, I wore beige Shetland sweaters and penny loafers and studied…a lot.
I became the reliable one, the predictable one, the unobtrusive one. One of my co-workers after college actually pegged me as a “quail” according to some made-up hitherto unknown bird hierarchy. It was good natured ribbing that secretly had me wishing that I were an eagle. I also must confess to being called “vanilla” from time to time. Though I liked vanilla well enough, the adjective in connection to my personage suggested someone dreadfully bland, mild, and ordinary; a disdainful image for someone with a distinctive inner wild child.
A fine summer night a few years ago, I had the good fortune of landing some Good Brown Bread for my evening repast. It was a moist chewy assertive bread stuffed with figs and sunflower seeds. Ironically, it elevated my meal from good to bone sighing outstanding. In fact the rest of the meal fell to the way side and all that stood out and apart, was this manna from heaven. This gift came wrapped in a glitter of foil teased shut with a thin scarlet ribbon of rickrack. I was charmed and later wowed, and a day later rationed out the last of this bread as if it were my last meal on earth. What I did not know but later discovered was how “good”, as in wholesome this bread really was. If ingredients could go to school, these would be signed up for AP classes. They would be getting straight A’s, leading the debate team and be head of the student council. They pack a mean punch of fiber, iron, potassium and other minerals all under the dressing of low fat. This is bread that dutifully works to fill and fortify when breaking the fast. It has enough character to buoy up a flagging soup or salad. It can be thought of as an alternative to decadent dessert with a slather of cream cheese on its back side. I have even thought about throwing out the sandwich handbook and dressing up this bad boy (err I mean good…) with some turkey, Swiss cheese, aioli and a pile of arugula. And last but not least, Good Brown Bread bakes up nicely into a compact effortlessly sliceable loaf. It is excellent for sharing. Alright, so maybe good is not so bad after all. Good Brown Bread a recipe given to me by excellent friend Miriam Valesco.
1 1/4 Cup 7 or 9 grain cereal (Orowheat has several varieties)
3/4 Cup spelt flour
1/2 Cup wheat germ
3/4 Cup oat bran
1/2 tsp salt
2 Cup buttermilk (I often substitute 1Cup plain yogurt & 1Cup water)
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 Cup honey
1/4 Cup molasses (I skip the honey and use all molasses)
dried nuts and fruit (I am partial for fresh cranberries and dried dates w/pecans)
Mix dry ingredients except for baking soda into medium sized bowl. I next add my dried nuts and fruit into the dry bowl so that the flour will help keep the sticky fruit from clumping. I then mix the buttermilk with the baking soda in a separate bowl. After, I mix the molasses/honey into the buttermilk. Dump the wet stuff into the dry and fold gently. Do not stir too much or mixture will toughen. Pour batter into greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2" pan. Bake loaf for about 1 hour at 325 degree F oven. Check doneness with toothpick. Serve with butter or cream cheese. Loaf keeps about 1 week refrigerated.