Su Lum: Beware the bread
There’s a recipe for Amish Cinnamon Bread going around town that’s something like a chain letter or a pyramid club, and I hasten to warn you, lest you fall victim to what looks at first glance to be a harmless seduction.It begins with the presentation of the finished product. I arrived at work a few weeks ago to find that Jenna Weatherred had brought in a loaf of a sweet, moist, tasty substance ? you wouldn’t call it bread, but it wasn’t exactly cake, and it was excellent. The amazing thing was that Jenna, who is not enthused about matters domestique, had baked it herself and was aglow with her accomplishment. I would soon learn why. Warning: If your boss, or your best friend or your mother-in-law presents you with such a tidbit, taste it, say, “My, that’s wonderful,” but do not ? do NOT ? ask for the recipe.If you are asked if you’d like to HAVE the recipe, say you’d love a copy when you return from the yearlong safari that you’re leaving on tomorrow. Otherwise, you will be handed a gallon-sized Zip Lock plastic bag containing white goo, and for the next 10 days you’ll be making that cake/bread whether you want to or not.Your written instructions are to set the bag on a kitchen counter and squeeze it several times for the next five days. It sounds simple enough, but by day three you won’t remember whether it’s day two or six and meanwhile the stuff is growing and festering in the bag.On day six, you add to the bag a cup of flour, a cup of sugar and a cup of milk and squeeze the bag several times. On days seven, eight and nine, squeeze the bag several times. Now the contents of the bag have taken on a life of its own, the noxious gases blowing the plastic bag up like a balloon, requiring regular venting, and first your kitchen and then the whole house smells of it, and every time you take your eye off it, it blows up again.Day 10, the day of reckoning, will ? you can bet on it ? be a day that you don’t feel like dealing with this fetid mass, but if you wait it might explode, and after spending all this time on it you don’t want to throw it out, don’t even know how you could “dispose” of this toxic material.So you go on. You squeeze the unspeakable contents into a large mixing bowl (you are warned, without explanation, not to use a metal container or a metal spoon and your imagination leaps) and add a cup of milk, a cup of sugar, 3 large eggs, 2 tsp. cinnamon, 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder, 2 cups flour, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 cup canola oil and a large box of INSTANT VANILLA PUDDING (Nouveau Amish?).You stir this all together, then “Pour one cup of batter into four one-gallon bags, give three to family and friends with these instructions and keep one for your next batch of bread.” Right. All four bags were going out of my house and I didn’t care where they ended up.By noon on Sunday (my 10th day), my stove and kitchen counters were covered with this putrification as I tried to “pour” one cup into the four uncooperative plastic bags, fodder for the next victims. When I finally popped the remainder into the oven, it was with infinite relief that this ordeal was over.I laid the finished product on the ad department counter, but gave the bags to Jenna to distribute as she saw fit: who will die? With each incarnation the contents grow more contaminated: after only four rounds, the sour milk and rotten eggs will have been sitting at room temperature for 40 days; after five rounds 1,364 bags will have been distributed, after seven rounds, 16,724. At what point will the contents of the bags be considered weapons of mass destruction?[Su Lum is a longtime local with a history of sourdough-starter failures in the Alaskan wilderness. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.]
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“If I was moving through the herd, the others would begin walking away, some of them at a jog, taking their calves with them, but the big brown ungulate would face me sideways, reluctant to move, not wanting to give any ground,” writes Tony Vagneur.