Friday, March 21, 2008

The Ties That Bind

I hang my laundry out on the line year 'round. It has been my experience, since moving here, that wet clothes will dry in any temperature as long as the wind is blowing. And the wind does blow quite well here. Ask my tipsy greenhouse.

Still, what is a grudging chore during the winter months becomes an opportunity to step out and enjoy the sunshine and brisk breezes of spring. As the clouds race by and the sun bounces in and out of sight, standing outside and hanging laundry in the fresh winds is almost as satisfying as gardening. Okay, I said almost, alright?

Every time I talk laundry with someone--and I've been on email lists where "Love of Laundry" threads have consumed untold megabytes of server space somewhere--there's always some unfortunate soul who is unable to hang out their clothes because of some residential restriction of one type or another. Someone was quoted as bitingly opining that hanging out laundry was trashy and poor. It always saddens me when I hear this, because it demonstrates to me an impoverished perspective. Laundry flapping in the breeze is part of the ambiance that says "home." Banning that is like forbidding the scents drifting from a busy kitchen.

I think of laundry as I think of all of the fundamental tasks that women have accomplished through the millennia. A generational thread connecting us. This task contributes a fiber to the thread of our lives...this thread that is woven into the warp and woof that makes us the fabric of history. These small, menial repetitive things that connect me to all of the women who have ever lived who poured out their lives in the sustenance, nurturing and nourishment of their families. Each generation is woven into the succeeding ones. We hand off the threads for those that follow to continue weaving after us.

Edith Schaeffer talks about these threads in her book The Tapestry. This reminded me of another book that was influential to me in the early years of marriage: The Hidden Art of Homemaking. This book, I realize now, was fundamental in providing me with an glimpse of the significance of the responsibilities I had undertaken. Her ideas, suggestions, and perspective sewed the early seeds that I now begin to see are the harvest that I am reaping in my life right at this moment. The idea of taking very little and using it to create daily beauty. The idea of thinking outside of the consumeristic mentality. The significance of the menial and small things in making our lives meaningful and beautiful.

Riffling through my memories, I am humbled to realize how much of what is coming to fruit in my life is a result of someone else's effort, someone else's germination, someone else's investment in my life. All that is spread out before me in my life is built on the underpinnings of the people who have shared, shown, and modeled for me their ideas, their epiphanies, their experiences and wisdom.

Making breads of all kinds are one of those generational threads. There's nothing so homey as bread, is there? Mother teaching daughter the tricks, nuances, and idiosyncrasies of dough. Isn't the loss of bread, the substitution of bread, the relearning it all the biggest hurdle in gluten-free living? (The most frequently clicked-on recipes here are the bread ones.) So many people stumble over the idea of giving up bread as they know it. It's fundamental to our concept of nutrition. And almost every culture has their form of bread.

When we lived in San Antonio, tortillas were an intrinsic part of the cuisine there. Every little mom n' pop restaurante made their own and I, a transplant from Louisiana, was introduced to the "breakfast tortilla." Dunno how traditional that is, but it surely was yummy. We recently trialled the Food For Life tortillas, but became convinced that the xanthan gum confirmed our suspicion that corn is still off the menu for us. Time for some "cooking dangerously."

Almost Everything Free Tortillas

1 1/2 cups grain flour
1/2 - 3/4 cups tapioca starch flour
2-5 T melted lard
3/4 - 1 cup warm water
2-3 t guar gum
1 t salt
Extra lard for cooking

In mixer, using a dough hook (one of the rare times that gluten free baking requires a dough hook), mix the dry ingredients with the melted lard and slowly work in the water until incorporated. The dough should be dry enough to work with your hands. Break off a ball of dough and roll into a ball. Using sheets of baking parchment or wax paper, flatten in a tortilla press or roll out with a rolling pin. Thinner is better.

In cast iron skillet over medium low heat, melt more lard. Place tortillas one at a time into the skillet, browning for a minute or so until it starts to brown and bubble. Flip tortilla and cook the other side for another minute.

Best eaten warm, but these can be frozen and reheated later.

I think of all of the hands that continue the timeless tradition of nurturing their families with warm tortillas. Blest be the ties that bind.


Kay said...

LZ, I've been a fan of your blog for long and am a member at KA's forum.

Check out this millet tortillas. It's gluten free and additive free. you can use the same technique to made tortillas with other gluten wholegrain free flours. Or instead of cooking them on stove top, you can cut them into triangles and make crackers in the oven.

Loztnausten said...

Oooh! I like the way she thinks:

"I thought that if millet grits could be used like corn grits, perhaps millet flour could be used like corn flour in tortillas or flatbread."

Thanks for stopping by, Kay!