A baking art form I have never mastered. Well I am going to give it a whirl. My childhood friend Martha made that beautiful loaf you see above. (And no, I am NOT sitting in her kitchen in Philadelphia, I borrowed the photo from her Facebook page.)
INGREDIENTS 3 cups/385 grams all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting ¼ teaspoon instant yeast 1 ¼ teaspoons salt Cornmeal or wheat bran, as needed
PREPARATION In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K.
Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
And why am I conquering my fear of bread making? Well among other things, I have a friend who owns a restaurant who is teaching everyone the fun of baking sourdough bread with her sourdough starter. So baby steps.
But baking and gardening and cooking distracts me from the idiots on social media. And it keeps me from looking at the Chester County COVID19 maps. Both of which are good things.
I saw a photo go by of a large group of people out to dinner. Like life right now was business as usual. All scrunched together for a group restaurant photo. Not exactly social distancing.
This is no joke. Schools are closed. Colleges and universities too. Government officials are begging us to practice social distancing. Why? Because COVID-19/Coronavirus is real. Chester County has a map now. A live interactive map of virus victims.
In the last 48 hours, my life changed. It started with this post I saw at dinner time on Friday:
It hit me like a thud. I was at this event. At Downingtown Friends Meeting. The Galanthus Gala. I went at the very, very end to visit a plant nursery I buy plants from and to buy the new book by local horticulture author, David Culp. I bought a book and a specimen Japanese Maple. I was maybe 25 minutes.
When I got there the event was fairly empty. I would say the majority of attendees were in the lecture in the building next door to where I was. I was not particularly close to anyone, went in by myself. Ironically, the majority of the time I was practicing “social distancing”. Not intentional, it was just the way it was.
This was more than a week ago now. Ironically I was pretty much self-quarantined last week because all of the COVID-19 news really gave me pause. One of my stepbrothers and his wife are medical professionals in the U.K. They have been concerned about this since the news about this virus began to pop. My stepbrother actually has been saying we should all self-quarantine and practice social distancing long before it was advised to do so.
So now just because quite literally due to fate, I am in self-quarantine until probably next Saturday, along with my family. I am not symptomatic, and neither is my family. And yes, I have been in contact with medical professionals in charge of my care. And I voluntarily contacted Chester County to report I had been at the event where the 2nd Chester County COVID-19 victim was also in attendance. I do not know who the person is, don’t even believe I saw anyone who appeared ill.
But after careful deliberation I felt I needed to say I was there and to be in self-quarantine. I also have decided to be open about this. There are people all over like me whom have had potential exposure and we need to pay it forward and do the right thing. Thus far the communication from the county has been self-quarantine all around. I am good with that, it beats the alternative.
As a breast cancer patient I am in an immunocompromised class already, how can I not be straight here? God is good and I am blessed to have survived breast cancer and to be non-symptomatic on self-quarantine with this. My only regret is that I am inconveniencing my family.
The ultimate point of this post is not to alarm, but to inform. We all need to be careful and vigilant. Look no further than my experience. All I did was attend a horticultural event in a historic Quaker Meeting House. It’s not like this poor person knew he was infected, he just was. But this is exactly why event are being canceled and schools and businesses are closing for the time being.
I suggest gardening and UK television to help pass the time. And books. Remember those? In this busy world it is unusual to slow down like this, but maybe we needed a real reminder of what is important. Also try to support local businesses throughout this ordeal. It has been suggested that buying gift certificates will help their bottom line. And a lot of the local restaurants you love will be offering delivery and store to curb service. And let’s talk grocery stores. Keep on posting when you see availability but leave some for the next shopper.
Please take this seriously. Calm heads will enable us to get through this. It’s no fun to feel isolated for sure, and this will be very hard on our kids, especially if they are social. But it’s not forever, it’s just for a while. Surely we can do this?
I am not Episcopalian by birth. I am Roman Catholic. I have never joined a Catholic Church since I came to Chester County because I have lost faith in the religion of my birth, sadly.
That is not to say I don’t have my faith and belief in a higher power because I do. I often think about maybe an Episcopalian church because among other things, my stepfather belongs to my first St. Peter’s, in Society Hill. (The Society Hill St. Peter’s will live streaming via Facebook live at 11 AM. ) I went to grade school at St. Peter’s at 3rd and Pine. It was founded in 1758.
St. Peter’s in the Great Valley pre-dates St. Peter’s in Society Hill by quite a few years. It was founded in 1704. It was originally I believe a missionary parish of the Church of England. It’s one of my favorite churches in Chester County, truthfully. Every time I have visited I have found it so peaceful.
Today St. Peter’s in The Great Valley had a lovely virtual service. Part of the reason I am writing this post is to say thank you to Rev. Abigail Crozier Nestlehutt. It was a nice, calming thing devoid of fire and brimstone. But it contained messages of community and hope. And an expression of faith that COVID-19 or coronavirus will not destroy us. I looked at her biography on the church’s website and she is a native New Englander. I think even I needed a nice calm dose of New England practicality this morning.
So Rev. Abigail, thank you. Also thank you because this was the first religious service that resonated with me in many years.
People it’s a beautiful day outside. Practice your social distancing and soak up some sun! Take good care and thanks for virtually stopping by.
I placed a grocery order the other day. Not a panic, I want to clear the shelves grocery order, but a normal one for normal groceries. Through Instacart.
Nothing had been canceled, I thought my order would go as planned.
NOPE. People have once again cleaned out the Wegmans in Malvern on 29 again of food and it is only 1 PM and supposedly they had just restocked.
This is crazy town. This is also food hoarding I think. Now I understand WHY during World War I and II there was food rationing.
Hell I did not even need toilet paper. Just ummm….regular groceries, a few spices and so on.
My poor shopper. I told her just to cancel the order. She couldn’t do it and couldn’t get through to Instacart as an employee. I finally just sat on the phone for close to an hour to get an order that basically couldn’t be filled, cancelled.
Sorry not sorry I think that’s crazy town. I got a nice guy in a totally offshore call center at Instacart to cancel. But I had to sit on the phone for just shy of an an hour. (55 minutes)
Look I am not going to apologize for getting groceries delivered. I live on the fringes of the immunocompromised as a breast cancer patient. Besides how many people do this on a regular basis? And in the present moment it seems to make sense…given coronavirus.
What doesn’t make sense however, are the people who are just panic buying everything in sight to the point where you can’t even get basic groceries. What the hell is wrong with those people? I have also heard tales of people in the grocery stores shopping and getting food ripped out of their hands like it’s the bridal sale at Kleinfelds in New York.
Here is what a friend of mine named Gwen said today:
One thing that this pandemic has driven home to me is how very lucky I am–how lucky most of us are. We’re upset that concerts, games and other events are being cancelled. Many folks don’t have access to those things ever. We’re upset that we have to wait a day to buy whatever we want. People in refugee settlements or living in poverty may always be hungry or without basic staples.
I worry about what will happen if our health care workers get sick and if our hospitals are overburdened. But I’m not the doctor, nurse or aide who has to leave my child or aging parent to take care of others who are sick. And many people rarely have access to or can afford care. I have a warm home in which I can shelter in place and food to eat. I have a job that lets me work from the comfort and safety of my home. I have people to help take care of me if I do get sick. I have access to care. In the most important ways, I am wealthy beyond measure.
Very true. And thank you for putting it into perspective.
Now let’s talk other things. This morning I wrote that we live in municipalities with small township buildings in a lot of cases. Even in larger township buildings there isn’t (in my humble opinion) enough room to even practice “social distancing” for meetings. Even for the boards and township employees who sit up front.
Municipalities should be voluntarily rescheduling ALL public meetings and hearings for the next month to six weeks. They don’t know even among the employee and elected officials ranks who would or might be immunocompromised or even who they might have been exposed to. Same with whichever attorney or individual who might have business before a municipality.
Coronavirus is real and if they are closing schools and sporting events as a precaution then township buildings should follow suit. No one is going to die if applications before boards and commissions are paused for 4 to 6 weeks, but if people are potentially exposed to sick people in boardrooms is that really a risk municipalities in Chester County want to take?
Oh my soooo many people were upset with me. Comments like:
It doesn’t help to bombard municipal workers with questions. They are getting advice from the County, the State and the CDC. It is rather overwhelming. Please resist the urge to make it worse.
Respectfully, I disagree. There is so much information that is out there that is conflicting or as clear as mud. Last time I checked government still works for us, and to whom are we to direct concerns if we have them? Shelter in place and pose questions to the cat and dog perhaps? It doesn’t hurt to ask politely if you are wondering about something. You don’t have to call, you can e-mail.
Plenty of municipalities are postponing and rescheduling events and meetings. Plenty are not. A lot of municipalities broadcast live, and Tredyffrin for example, has offered residents an email address to mail public comment questions and statements to so they get on the record. But then there are the municipalities who record NOTHING and offer the barest of bare bones meeting minutes, or who record audio only and release after a meeting is over, or record meeting but only post after a meeting is over. Not naming names they know who they are.
What is happening now is why municipalities need to catch up with the times and modernize. You all have access to PEG channels or YouTube technology and you can indeed broadcast a meeting live on YouTube. East Goshen does it. And East Goshen has gone the extra step to say how many people can fit in their small boardroom with proper social distancing.
Then there were the people annoyed with me for mentioning the Spanish Influenza outbreak in conjunction with the coronavirus. People, that is historical FACT. There was quite literally a parade for World War I in Philadelphia that was NOT canceled and it caused the Spanish Influenza to go pandemic in the area because the crowds were not broken up.
Chester County PA has just announced they are moving to only essential services. No prison visitors or visitors to long term care facilities. Closing the libraries, courts, and parks and trails for 14 days. There is more but they are speaking faster than I can type. The are declaring an emergency county-wide. This is no joke. This is hunker down and ride it out as best we can.
It would be nice if people would stop hoarding groceries or accumulating things people need everyday so they can price gouge and make a buck off of the troubles of others.
Covid-19 is nothing we have seen before. Life has to be somewhat draconian until it’s figured out. This thing is going to affect us.
I agree with the Chester County Health Officials who urge us not to look at this as a punishment but an opportunity to be together. Life throws us curve balls. Maybe we could rise to the occasion here? I am confused and worried just like everyone else. But the ONLY thing we can control right now is how we react. We need to be calm and hunker down.