Newsletter for April, 1997 ce
We have reverted to the original newsletter format for a very good reason. (not that you can tell on the electronic edition -- Alia) The software we've been using must be reinstalled, and that would take more time than we're willing to delay mailing. You may also notice that we are missing some of our regular features. We're hoping to have it all back in place next month.
Our thanks to the Coven of the Twin Spirits for a lovely and uplifting ritual. The charging of rocks and returning them to the water was a delightful metaphor and act of magic.
The April Open Full Moon will be held on Friday, April 18 beginning at 7:30 PM, at the First Unitarian Church, 1400 Lafayette, in Denver.
As the OFM falls on the cusp between All Fools Day and Beltane, this somewhat unconventional ritual will focus on the often neglected friendship aspect of love. The Fool comes in due to the natural awkwardness of risking yourself by meeting new people. Be prepared to talk to new people, and perhaps to be volunteered (no rehearsal necessary). This ritual is brought to you by the Stephen and Marian show, and they promise this will not be another "Cecil B. DeMille" ritual.
April 18 September 12 May 16 October 10 June 13 November 7 July 18 December 12 August 15
Please be aware that we will no longer have access to the nursery. Due to a lack of adult volunteers, we have removed the child care area from our lease.
We have officiants for all of 1997; if you would like to be an officiant in 1998, please call 680-5105 and talk to gypsy.
Except, of course, I'm not going to say a lot of really nice things about mothers. I love my mother, and speak to her regularly. My stepmother-in-law is a lovely lady with whom (although she would cringe to know she was being mentioned in a non-Christian publication) I would be friends even without the family tie. I never met my husband's natural mother while she was alive so I cannot fairly judge her. (I'm leaving Mike's mother out of this because she's the most likely to read it and make fun of me.) But I'm not talking about their personalities today. This is, after all, a cooking column.
All of these women cooked. Barb, Aaron's stepmother, is a southern country cook. She fries a lot of things. In her native region (which I call the part of Louisiana that's really Arkansas) they use butter and oil by the truckload. Fats carry flavor, so the food tastes wonderful. But the effect on the waistline is devastating.
My mother is from the old Jewish Bronx (the only part of New York that's really New York.) Again, this is a style of cooking that is traditionally fatty. (They make snacks from rendered chicken fat, for Hygeia's sake!) Golden fat floats on the chicken soup, and cakes drip with honey. Delicious but not conducive to weight loss. (My mother has since embraced a totally fat-free diet -- healthier but far less tasty.)
Aaron's natural mother was raised in a Jewish neighborhood in upstate New York (the part of New York that is really Pennsylvania, as opposed to the part of New York that is really Massachusetts, the part that is really Canada, and the part that is really New Jersey.) When she married, she moved to the southern states. (All of them, according to Aaron.) Her cooking should have reflected the best -- or worst -- of both worlds. But her family was never really enthusiastic about cooking. Aaron remembers no kitchen in his maternal grandparents' home. So she had to pick it up as she went along, and Aaron says she didn't do it very well. Overcooked vegetables, soggy chicken, and Jello prepared as Nature never intended it to be were staples of his formative years.
Some foods were within her capabilities, though. When I started baking bread again after a ten year hiatus, Aaron asked me to try to recreate her Sally Lunn. All he could remember was that it was a bread that tasted like cake. I went about this task with determination. First I tried bread machine recipes. The first one I made rose too high and then collapsed into a lethal brick. The second one rose up to the lid, then baked only the crust, leaving a liquid center. The third one rose over the top of the bread machine and flowed onto the counter.
The next two I tried to make by hand. Kneading proved to be disastrous. The large quantity of liquid (milk, eggs, and butter) meant I had to add almost a cup of flour or wear the dough like cement gloves for a week. The recipe had come from a colonial era book, and I still haven't figured out how cooks in the eighteenth century cleaned up that mess without modern cleansers and fast running showers.
Then, one day, I was reading Beth Hensperger's BREAD FOR ALL SEASONS (a delightful book which, in my opinion, deserves an honored place on any pagan baker's bookshelf.) There is a recipe for a French treat called Soleilune, or Sun and Moon, which she states is the original form of Sally Lunn. Hensperger's history is different from other cookbooks' versions, claiming French origin and a similarity to brioche, rather than an ancestry from British pub fare. She talks about Sally Lunn as a tradition in New Orleans, rather than along the eastern seaboard as I had previously been lead to believe. Her recipe, while producing something edible, was very complicated and still wasn't quite right. (For one thing, she uses whole wheat flour, which Aaron said spoiled the whole effect. It was really good, though.)
At least now I had something to work from, though, as brioche and the like are batter breads, requiring no kneading. I went next to SOUTHERN SIDEBOARDS and, sure enough, there was Sally Lunn right next to brioche. The recipe called for lard and was so labor intensive I almost gave up right then and there. But something inside me insisted that I had to keep trying. So I tweaked the recipe a little, both to eliminate the lard and to adapt it to the altitude. And, one day last February, I served up what Aaron says is his natural mother's Sally Lunn. It disappeared within a day, most of it gobbled down as soon as it came out of the oven. (It wasn't just Aaron eating. Mike helped. Joy helped. I helped. Aaron didn't really need the help.) The slice that survived the night went with Aaron's lunch the next day, although it had already gone somewhat stale. Homemade breads, having no added preservatives, dry out faster than commercial breads.
This bread is great plain, with a tiny bit of butter (it contains enough butter as it is!) or with strawberry preserves. I might try chocolate butter next time; talk about decadent!
And keep in mind when you see how much work this requires, that the mother who served her children gray broccoli, and who cooked shoe leather and called it pan-fried liver, made this really well.
SALLY LUNN (1 loaf)
1 pkg. dry yeast
¼ C lukewarm water
1 tsp. sugar
1 stick butter
3 TB oil
1 C milk
4 C white flour, preferably unbleached
1 TB vital wheat gluten (available on baking supplies aisle at supermarket)
1/3 C sugar
2 tsp. salt
½ stick butter, melted
Dissolve yeast in warm water; add sugar and set aside. Warm butter, oil and milk just until all is melted, then let stand until lukewarm. Sift together flour, sugar, and salt. (Sifting, even if the package says the flour is pre-sifted, seems to greatly improve baking at this altitude. I don't know why; it just does.) Beat eggs thoroughly and combine with milk and yeast mixture. Beat well. Add flour and beat well. Place a wooden spoon in the dough, cover bowl lightly with a towel, and place in warm, draft-free place to rise. Every 20 minutes, beat dough down, re-cover, and allow to rise again. Do this for at least 3 hours. (Really, you have to do this or it won't have the proper texture.) After the last beating, put dough in a well-greased bundt or tube pan, cover with towel, and let rise for about 1½ hours. Preheat oven to 325°F. Bake for 45-60 minutes, basting with melted butter during last 10 minutes of baking. It is done when it is golden in color.
Hesnperger recommends this for a Spring Equinox libation. Mind you, I'm not disagreeing, but I think it's wonderful for any kind of libation. Like, for instance, Mothers' Day.
There was a wonderful comic in the paper on the equinox. Grampa was outside with his grandson and made the comment that he knew it was the first day of spring because "when you can put your foot on three dandelions at once, it's spring". Well, spring is definitely here....and so are the dandelions! I'm probably the only person on my block who is EXCITED about the beautiful yellow flowers popping up in my lawn.
The botanical name for dandelion is Taraxacum officinale, which in Greek means "remedy for disorders", and that name certainly fits this sunny flower.
The greens, especially the tender spring shoots, can be eaten fresh in salads or steamed. The roasted root is a coffee substitute. The flowers can be made into a soothing, healing oil. The tincture is a diuretic and liver tonic.
Let's start with the root...the liver's best friend. Dandelion root is a wonderful and effective tonic for the liver and digestive system, as well as the kidneys. The liver is the major organ of detoxification in the body, and if it works well, you feel and look better. Dandelion root provides nutrients to strengthen, repair and nourish the liver tissue, and stimulates bile flow which aids digestion and elimination. It also contains high amounts of iron, manganese, protein and vitamin A and is an excellent source of calcium. Dandelion root helps with menstrual cramps and premenstrual swelling. Be aware¼she didn't acquire the nickname of "pissinbed" for nothing, for dandelion root is also a diuretic and is a great ally to help heal kidney and urinary problems. Also be aware that the root can act as a laxative in large amounts.
Dandelion leaves, fresh and green, are a nutritious (and FREE) food, a digestive bitter, and a blood and lymph mover. The leaves are full of carotenes, ascorbic acid, potassium and calcium, as well as iron and B-vitamin complex. Believe it or not, the leaves are 19-32% protein! It is suggested that pregnant women eat the leaves during the last few months of pregnancy and all during lactation as they improve the quality of breast milk. As a digestive bitter the leaves aid in digestion and elimination (a mild laxative). The leaves act as a "blood purifier" by increasing the water and blood waste eliminated through the kidneys and urine. Dandelion flowers can be used as a pain reliever, beautifier, and as Susun Weed says "a friend to your heart". Steep fresh blossoms in a covered container for an hour in freshly boiled water. Strain, reserving both flowers and liquid. Put the warm flowers on your face and lie down for ten minutes. Rinse off with the liquid. Splash the infusion on your face and skin before you go to sleep. A tea made from dandelion flowers will ease a variety of aches and pains, and how can you feel down or depressed drinking flowers!
Even the sap is useful. Break a leaf, stem or piece of root and place the white sap on warts, calluses, bee stings, blisters, old wounds, and they will heal and disappear in short order.
And of course, what can cause a lighter heart than blowing away the dried tops of a spent dandelion blossom, watching the little parachutes float away on the wind!
The dandelion grows in abundance and I think that is her way of saying "Use me! Use me! You need me!". If you really can't tolerate having dandelions in your lawn, at least harvest them root and all and accept their healing gift rather than using herbicides.
Welcome, Sister Dandelion, little spots of sunshine in my lawn and garden, blessed healer and child of the Lady.
(If you want to learn more about dandelions, especially some really wonderful recipes, consult the book HEALING WISE by Susun Weed.)
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