Tuesday, November 17

Back to Basics... with Man-Bread

Right at home with bony rickety things outside my window, I love creeping around the edges. While folks consider the peak of leaf season, when the leaves are kissed by the sun, to be the royal view worth gawking over, I’m finding immeasurable beauty in the barrenness left behind. The leaves on trees are near fallen exposing stunted misshaped limbs injured from last winter’s ice storm. The giant stores of acorns once unloading playful vengeance upon industrious critters are now spent, crushed into dust underfoot and the crabapples last week- waterlogged and eerily luminescent are now slightly wizened. It is all happening fast as nature scrambles to tuck in and close the shutters. Finally it seems I’m back in synch with time, smack dab in the decay and decline of the season.

We are down to the wire, the last few weeks before the holiday tumble, every bit of summer sensuality wrung out. The bare trees now expose ungainly piles of junk from the neighbor’s too-close-for-comfort yard. Roots have grown in; highlights faded out, in fact most I know are sporting hair more akin to shrubbery. Once horrified by the unrelenting practicality of an entire town’s wardrobe, I too have submitted to the unspoken wisdom of fleece. This is territory unspeakably honest- without the gloss and cosmetics of warm month pageantry.

So it is really no wonder that I’ve been gnawing on what I’ve dubbed man-bread*, for about a week now. Yes, the loaf was overcooked a hefty 10 minutes which further accentuated the coarse nature of the beast, yet didn’t destroy it at all. Sure this fig, nut, and lentil bread sounds exotic and sophisticated first upon the ear, but a slight scratch below the surface reveals a substance possibly representative of the entire category of Food- at its most base requirement. Mortar like and gnarly in batter form, it bakes into a stout brick durable for adventures far and wide. No need for fancy Tupperware or plastic wrap, just cut a slab, stick it in your trouser and go. Surely some version of this bread stowed away in yesterday’s traveler’s bindlestiff serving as head rest, hammer, and staff. Man-bread is primitive, touching an ancient survival memory long lost. Not plied with deft hands like baguette, nor fanciful as cake, this bread’s sole purpose is to feed the hungry masses and do so in an unobtrusive way. I suppose that is what I’m really responding to. Durable, plain faced and practical… it fits the bill this November month. No cozy, No fluffy, No decadence- it is unadulterated food that shames all the crock pot-casserole-monstrosities we will be inundated with come January. And yet, man-bread manages to help me dig in and occupy the bones of this place in season, and that is no small feat.

* this name bestowed upon the loaf is reference to Sam Martin’s study of manspace.

Balsamic and Lentil Bread: one loaf adapted from Susan Jane Murray great site. Ingredients: 1 C millet flour
½ C quinoa flakes
½ C sunflower seeds
½ C pumpkin seeds
1 C walnuts
½ C dried figs
¼-1/3 C chopped dried cured olives (optional)
2 Tblsp. balsamic vinegar
3 Tblsp. Olive oil
2 eggs
1 C of cooked beluga lentils plus ½ cup of leftover water from the cooking.

Directions: Dump the dry ingredients (first 6 or 7 if including the olives) into a large bowl. Mix the rest of the wet ingredients into another smaller bowl with a fork. Dump the wet mixture into the dry and mix with a few strokes until just incorporated. Pour into a greased loaf pan. Pop into a 325 degree preheated oven. I did 350 degree for 50 minutes and mine was a little too brick-ish. Could have been not enough lentil “juice”, too high of a temperature, too long? Bake until just firm. It is quite nice with scoops of cottage cheese/avocado. Enjoy with other manly people.


Chelsea said...

Goodness. That does sound fortifying...

I begain reading this post and immediately wanted to leave a comment of agreement with your preference for this November landscape (barren! Oh, no - there are so many interesting 'bones' out there!). However, by the end of the post I had clicked over to watch the manspace snippet and became utterly absorbed...(and a little jealous - what about womenspace, I wonder...)

judyyb said...

Grrrrrrr......i say it sounds like a loaf of crude prude crunchy bread to me. awesome!

Callipygia said...

Chelsea- Yeah, it is such an interesting time of year... the structure underneath! Manspace is such a gratifying word/concept. And womenspace....isn't it all Womenspace?

Judyyb- Definitely crude prude crunchy, ready for the road!

Gattina Cheung said...

I had many memories about the late fall season in NJ, now it is good to see them again vividly show in front of me by your wonderful writing!!! Have I just sniffed that decay-leaf-alike smell in the air too?!!!
Calli, you are so right about the feeling of this bread... flour from cereals, dried nut and fruit are truely honest to their texture and profound flavor, a small slice could go a long way! For some reason this recipe doesn't require any rising agent, like yeast?

Anh said...

What a name and what a bread! If I make this, I will re-name it “the lazy woman’s bread”. The easy yet flavour-packed recipe is a winner in my book these days.

How do I envy your autumn? Glorious season, I can tell you. At least you can bake bread. I cannot even turn on the oven when the weather outside reaches 41C (Well, I can with the AC on. But I rather not). Feel like I am baked goods myself.

Callipygia said...

Gattina- Believe me there is no "rise" nor loft to this bread. It is just dense, next time I'm adding olives for some more flavor contrast. Fall time is a great East coast time!

Anh- Ohh that much heat, no keep the oven off and just eat the nuts and grains separately!

Lucy said...

Gorgeous, dense. Lentils! That's amazing...really, quite hard to get my head around, but get there I will.

Bit like winter. Which, as I type, is almost upon you. Can I confess that, much as I love the summer that, just yesterday, our spring has become, I'm longing for those bare-bones too? That I'm afraid of the coming heat? Of the fires that come with it?

(Loved the manspace piece...I love your TED recco's.)

And those figgy-forms. Beautiful image. As always.