Thursday, March 17, 2011

Love and Love.

Love love love love this band! I have been addicted to them and their fluid and poetic songwriting. The Civil Wars, Ladies and Gentlemen!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Butterhorns with Papa

Image courtesy of here
My grandparents house is one of smells and memories. The kitchen is a small galley off of the dining room. My grandmother has covered every square inch of the space with cookery items, antique utensils, showy tableware, dried flowers, baskets and garlic hanging in bunches. Stained glass tablets hang from the windows, transforming the light and space into an ethereal place. Small crystal bowls line the windowsill above the sink as a place to rest her rings while washing dishes. She is the homemaker of this house and this is her space. Every inch of it surrounds her, describes her, and is part of her. My grandfather, like many men of his generation, has dominion over the charcoal grill in the backyard. He is always willing to help my grandmother in the kitchen, peeling potatoes or removing a particularly cumbersome roast from the oven, but his form looks displaced in the cramped space. He fills it completely and is surrounded by the femininity of her kitchen. I know he can cook. I know he is capable of much more than grilling, and on rare occasions he shows me. Grammie was out for the morning, and Papa was in charge of me. Usually we would run down the street to the park to play, but on this morning he asks me if I wanted to make butter horns with him. I peer into the glass bowl as he adds a small amount of warm water. He hands me a spoon to sprinkle sugar into the water. Digging through the cupboard, he returns with a little packet of yeast. I sprinkle the tiny grains over the sugar-water and watch them bloom. The earthy smell envelops me as I stir the mixture with a wooden spoon. He covers the bowl with plastic wrap and removes a large bowl from the stand mixer on the counter. He has me scoop flour from the earthenware canister on the counter into a metal flour sifter over the bowl, spinning the handle to remove all of the lumps. The yeast is foaming and requires our attention. He has me add more sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and melted butter to the yeast mixture and stir it around until everything is combined and smooth. He takes the wooden spoon, warm from my hand, and slowly adds the flour in small amounts, beating hard with the spoon until it stiffens into a stringy dough. He has me sprinkle flour onto the counter and turns out the dough to be kneaded. I watch as he moves methodically, turning, pushing and folding the dough until it seems to elasticize beneath his hands. I oil a large plastic bowl and watch as he gathers the dough, places it in the bowl and turns it to oil the top. He snaps the lid shut on the Tupperware bowl and we wash our hands. He distracts me for an hour, however you can distract a 10 year old, and when we return the dough has taken on a life of it’s own and has pushed up the lid of the container, peeking out from the crack like a swamp monster. He asks me to punch it down, and I look at him as I raise my fist and sink it into the soft dough. I sprinkle flour on the counter as he pulls the mass of dough out of the bowl and plops it on the counter. He divides it into four pieces and returns three of them to the bowl. The first piece gets rolled out into a circle, and I am entrusted with the blue glass butter dish and a pastry brush. I brush a thick coating of butter on the circle and he sprinkles a mixture of cinnamon and sugar over the disk. He takes a pizza cutter and divides the circle up into 8 pieces. He shows me how to roll each piece up, starting at the wide end and tucking the tiny tail under the roll. We grease a cookie sheet and place each roll on the sheet, curling the ends in slightly. We repeat this performance with each remaining balls of dough. He turns the oven on to warm up, and sets the trays of butter horns on the counter, covered with cotton kitchen towels for a second 30-minute rise. When the oven is preheated we slide our rolls in. He leaves the oven light on for me, and I watch as the rolls bloom and brown. While they are baking he whisks together a simple glaze of powdered sugar, milk and vanilla. When the rolls come out we let them cool a bit, then we drizzle on the glaze, watching it drip down onto the cookie sheet beneath. When they are completely cool and the glaze has dried, we remove them from the cookie sheet with spatulas. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen with Papa as we sink our teeth into our freshly baked creations. I smile at him and know that he is capable of so much more.