I have moved 15 times in 69 years. First, Wellsville, Leroy, Canandaigua, Jordan and Syracuse, all in New York State. In my peripatetic 20ties, I also moved five times, all in Syracuse : Columbus Ave, Lancaster and Ackerman Avenues and finally the infamous Green Street. Green Street deserves a blog all its own.
At 24, I decamped for SE Washington DC, married at 27 and my husband and I bought a house in NW Washington’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood. Finally, we moved to the Bannockburn neighborhood in Bethesda, MD, with a short year and a half in Overland Park, KS. Now, we live in Ft. Myers, Florida. About an average life, moving-wise, I think.
The thing is, I have three dish towels that have moved with me for the past 40 years. They are the dish-drying kind, soft and finely woven. One is even reported to be homespun linen, and it has a square hole in the middle of it.
Another is a calendar towel from my parents house, dated 1971. It also is holey (I am not a punning woman). My favorite, stained but still usable is my Jane Austen towel. On it, there is a depiction of her house Chawton, and some quotes, including “I am very sorry to hear, Miss Fairfax of your being out this morning in the rain.” Me too.
I use these towels only when I make bread. I love sourdough bread because it tastes good, and my son taught me to make it, but recently I began to see the process in a new light. In the light of towels.
These are historic, meaningful towels, worn and stained as they are. When I put the sourdough to rise the last time, these towels are rubbed with a rice and wheat flour mixture to prevent the bread from sticking to them. I spread the towels over medium-sized round bowls, and tenderly place the dough in the middle. As if it were an infant in the sun, I cover each prospective loaf with the corners. And wait a few hours before baking.
I bake the bread in a Lodge cast iron dutch oven heated to 500 degrees. My towels have never stuck to the dough. My bread towels remind me of all the places I’ve been and the people who’ve gone before. And the bread knows it too.