Historic Bread Towels



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.

Towels encase the bread babies
   Bread babies in my towels

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.

Homespun hole
             Homespun hole

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.

Holey calendar towel
             Holey calendar towel

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.

Jane's towel
                    Jane’s towel

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.

Happy bread
           Happy bread



Birds and Bread

I have about ten minutes before I need to tend to the sourdough.  The leaven ripened faster because our air is so warm. It’s Florida.

Took a 45 minute bike ride around the community this afternoon before the leaven was ready.

The first thing I encountered was a great blue heron posing under an oak.  It looked at me as I rode past, and I looked back. At little farther on the canal I was riding by, I encountered a wood stork, who had his mouth open and looked as if he was panting. He still looked professorial, even if he was too hot.

In nearby neighborhoods, I spied five noisy blue jays, morning doves, grackles, starlings and mockingbirds singing their hearts out–but  as always, the mockingbirds were singing somebody else’s  song.  Then there were white ibis, mottled ducks and a cattle egret perched on a wire.

I took a private road.  Short, dirt-covered and bumpy.    At the end, a bulldozed wet area–two roseate spoonbills, two great egrets, a couple of snowy egrets, some immature blue herons and a green heron.  And me, loving every minute of the calm, beautiful birds, caught in a moment. Still and beautiful . I stopped and paid tribute. What else can a human do?

Time to add something to the dough.  Salt and water and flour.  That’s all there is in the bread I make. You have to use your hands, opposable thumbs and all, to mix it up. It feels good. Sticky. but good.

Back to the bike route- on the way home I saw five fish crows, the “Oh-Oh” birds of Florida.  And a bald eagle, flapping its wings and flying  over our house.

Like me.