Industrial Harvest


What happened to the flour, part 10: personal use by sarah kavage

Hey, so maybe it’s time for me to tell y’all what I did with my flour…

Presented below, in no particular order, are the occasions of how I personally used the flour to nourish others in the spirit of the project.  I baked for a number of other events related to the Industrial Harvest itself, but these activities are more personal in nature.

For Thanksgiving 2010, I made two batches of dinner rolls and one pear-honey-walnut pie for two different Thanksgiving dinners in Seattle.  The rolls were a recipe my mom sent me, and turned out PERFECTLY for the first dinner, which was held on the official Thanksgiving day at our place with a few friends.  We try to do up a proper feast, usually vegetarian or vegan, every year and as the photo shows, we had a lot to be thankful for this year.  Rolls are in the “wicker chicken” breadbasket, center top; pie is to the right of the rolls.  You may also spy stuffing, two varieties of white potatoes and one of sweet potatoes, succotash with great-grandma’s heirloom red limas, brussel sprouts, cranberry sauce, a squash-pecan pie and two breastlike tofu turkey mounds in a sea of roasted root veggies:

The Thanksgiving table

The Thanksgiving table

Thanksgiving dinner rolls

Thanksgiving dinner rolls

The dinner rolls were the exception to an otherwise vegan dinner.  I made another batch for a larger Thanksgiving celebration a week later but cooked them in the host’s oven and they turned out underdone (still totally edible and appreciated).

The pear honey walnut pie made at least three appearances over the summer and fall, most recently at Thanksgiving.  It turned out to be the perfect pie for late summer, as pears are in season and you can always substitute apples or asian pears.  Here’s one example (from the illustration on the top crust, this one probably has apples or asian pears in it):

one of many pear-honey-walnut pies

one of the pear-honey-walnut pies

Our Chicago household (myself included) was partial to breakfasting on this pie – there’s barely any sugar in it, and the walnuts add enough protein to get you through the morning.

I made a lot of biscuits.  I probably make biscuits more than any other baked good, and in Chicago that meant several batches for the housemates and myself, some vegan, some with lard, some with buttermilk depending on all our various dietary quirks.  Back in Seattle, I made biscuits for a couple of different visitors, and a couple of batches for myself and my husband.  Sadly, there are no pictures of the biscuits.

And then there was the pizza.  I got tons of practice making pizza last summer – grilled, wood-oven fired, stovetop, plain old oven baked, I did it all.  My favorite episode involved bringing a bunch of excess dough and homemade pizza sauce (made with fresh midwest tomatoes from my housemate’s garden plot!) home to a little family reunion in Ohio, the first we’ve had in years.  Mom was happy to be absolved from some cooking duties, and the huge batch of pizza that resulted fed everyone at the reunion with slices to spare.

Another epic pizza making session took place on another homecoming – the day of I returned from Chicago to Seattle, which also happened to be my birthday.  We’d invited a bunch of friends over to make pizza as a welcome home / birthday celebration and I pretty much rolled off the train and started rolling dough.  The hilarity in the kitchen that ensued was well worth it…there’s some goofy documentation of the evening here.

I did try bread baking a couple of times, with reasonable success.  These loaves were made for our Chicago household on a verrrry hot July day, right after the flour was finished milling.  They’re not the prettiest, but they were tasty.

The lumpen loaves

The lumpen loaves

And lastly, there’s this decorative bread medallion.  It was inspired by a Bread Bakers’ Guild of America newsletter article on artistic breadbaking, which included a recipe.  Compared to the lovely, highly refined decorative breads produced by the pros, my effort was pretty crude.  Nor did it technically nourish anyone, but as one of the few actual art pieces produced as part of Industrial Harvest, I was somehow happy with it and felt it deserved a place in this list.  It was one of three made for the show at Roots & Culture.  You can see the others here (one fell apart shortly after the opening).

wheat penny bread medallion

wheat penny bread medallion

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Wanda’s tasty southern dinner rolls by sarah kavage

Must be something in the stars – on the same day as the delicious whole wheat bread, I also managed to rock a super tasty batch of dinner rolls.  I spent 11 summers of my life (5 as a camper, then 6 as a counselor) at Camp Appalachia, a summer camp for girls up in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia.  It was sort of a family tradition – my mom and aunt went there as kids/young women, and when my mom got a job as head counselor in the 80s, my sister and I got to go for free.  Mom’s Camp Appy career spanned 26 summers.  My dad thought it was some sort of cult. 

Anyway…..Wanda Bartley, our cook, was a delightful local woman who drove 60+ girls and young women into a starch frenzy every Thursday and Sunday with her fresh dinner rolls.  Wanda would patiently put one industrial-sized tray of rolls after another into the oven until supplies ran out.  Sophisticated distribution systems were devised within (“who’s had 4 rolls already?”) and between (“you guys have any rolls left?”) tables.  At the end of the meal we’d be practically dozing off at the table; fortunately rest hour took place shortly afterwards.  I ate one right after they came out of the oven.  It took me right back to those camp days (triggering an inexplicable longing for canned green beans), and promptly made me want to take a nap. 

Mix together 2 pkgs fast acting yeast & 2 1/2 cups water
Add 3/4 cup sugar and 2 1/2 tsp salt (although I have read that this kills the yeast, I was faithful to Wanda’s tried and true method)
Add 3/4 cup melted butter or margarine, and 2 eggs
Add 8 – 8 1/2 cups flour to make a sticky dough.  I was not sure if Wanda meant sticky in the same way that the “real” bakers define it, but 8 cups was a little too many for my dough & I ended up adding more water to it.  For this to be real southern cooking, the flour absolutely has to be white flour. 

Put in airtight container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  Shape into balls 1/2 the size of roll and let rise 1 – 1 1/2 hours before baking.  Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden brown.  Makes about 45 rolls.  Dough will keep in refrigerator for 3 weeks. 

Yes, I made this whole recipe although I ended up with about 35 huge rolls as opposed to 45 more moderately sized ones.  The occasion?  My friend Anne Elizabeth Moore is going to Cambodia to do this awesome independent publishing project with young women, and a group is having an “Old World Bake Sale” fundraiser on her behalf (good old Southern cooking is not technically old world, but more old school, and I’m all about following the spirit of the law).  Anne leaves town in about 10 days and still needs to raise a couple thou to cover her expenses.  Her project is completely community funded, so if you haven’t already donated, you should seriously consider doing so!

Wanda's Southern Style Dinner Rolls

Wanda's Southern Style Dinner Rolls

A bit more practice before going “live” with the bake sale thing would have been better.  Wanda’s rolls always came out perfectly shaped and smooth, and I really meant to underbake them so that the buyer could put them in the oven for the final stretch.  Oh, I really hope they sell…the thought of them sitting on the bake sale table at the end of the night triggers all kinds of insecurities and anxiety (and also seems a little sad, cuz they taste so good).