Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Very Restrictive Sweet Potato Scones - A Freedom Story

It occurred to me a few years ago that everything I cook or bake has a story to it - a reason for being.  After discovering and being let down by books written for food allergics in mind, for 10 years I opened, looked at or yearned for not a one.  Instead, I purchased and sought out cookbooks whose tastes I thought we might enjoy, and then changed the recipe to be "free of".  While the words "free of" should be in a sense, liberating, they are anything but.  They are words that are restrictive, exclusive, and difficult.  Thus, the title of this blog post...

NOTE:  (Saying "Just don't eat it..." to someone who has a food allergy is like saying, oh, yeah, that's a gun, just don't touch it you'll be fine.  As a matter of fact, let's just pretend it isn't in the center of the room, loaded and spinning like that, hmm?  Would you like some, er, water?)

Which brings me to scones.  As someone who ate wheat products for 30 some odd years, scones were never my favorite baked good, so they were rarely sought out.  I was from Colorado and we didn't have many English bakeries.  I believe my first scone was eaten while I was with my friend Shelly, who later changed her spelling to Shellie, at an English shop in Cherry Creek.  The dryness of it was a bit overwhelming, but was helped a bit by a spot of tea.  The not very sweet, kind of savory, crumbly lumpy thing never made it to my short list of baked goods.

The idea of a pumpkin scone came to me after reading a recipe for sweet potato scones.  It also came after some research into pumpkin and what a fabulous source of iron and fiber it is.  I had a can of pumpkin so I decided to try my hand at making a batch.  (Trust me, we'll get to the sweet potato scone story soon enough, just follow along...).  As with anything, the first batch was lacking, but I dutifully wrote down what I did, as always, and there the recipe sat for a few years to be made only a few times per year.  I almost always used canned pumpkin, which worked fine, but the flavour was always a bit bland.  Until today.

I'm not sure what it was about today.  Possibly it started with the winter sun being a bit unforgiving to a clear blue sky.  Or the wind that beat temperature and branches outside my window.  Or the trees' refusal to let go of yellow brown pods that will feed the wild parrots this winter.

More than likely it was the left over sweet potato in my fridge begging for a reason not to be thrown in the trash.

Taking the quite large sweet potato out of the fridge, peeling and mashing it, I figured it was about a can of pumpkin or sweet potato.  Adding cardamom, ginger and cinnamon as well as a bit more sugar than usual, to the gluten free flour blend and one of my favorite egg replacers, and voila.  There they were, the most beautiful scones ever.  The outside was beautifully hard and carmelized, the inside lovely and cake like.  Oh, I guess I must not have mentioned that I don't like a crumbly scone.  I think I ate three.  The kid had two, I think, I'm not sure.

Ah - now for the the freedom part of the story.  Some time after making the scones I walked into our newly remodeled neighborhood boulangerie the "Lopez Cafe" on 5th avenue between 18th and 19th where I ordered a small coffee, black, with a bit of sugar.  Despite the amazing smell of bread and the beautiful overwhelming baked goods on display, I didn't even feel a twinge of jealousy, because I had already eaten the most wonderful scones in the world.  Those very restrictive sweet potato scones had indeed freed me from fresh baked gluten jealousy.

If you ever find yourself with leftover sweet potato, I highly recommend making a scone, very restrictive or not, you won't be disappointed.

© 2009 by Heidi Bayer.  All Rights Reserved.  Photo credit:  Heidi Bayer

Friday, December 25, 2009

25 December 2009

Wishing you and yours a happy holiday...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

Twenty-two years ago today at eleven o'clock the telephone rang and a nice female voice on the other end of the line told me that my father had passed away. It was 1987. I remember looking out of the window into my mother's backyard where snow fell quickly, quietly and lightly, blanketing lumps of cold metal cars, hard red brick of the garage, and tree branches still holding onto brown leaves. I believe I said the words, "really", "thank you" and "okay" a few dozen times through a throat that was hoarse and thinning and with a voice that was older than my twenty-one years. By the time the phone was placed on the receiver after a forced "have a nice holiday," the backyard was shrouded in white.

What happened after that is a blur. My father was cremated. My brother, sister and I, along with my mother and her third husband, had a small ceremony commemorating his life. A few people came.  More than a few people wanted items (mostly money) from his Estate which consisted of a 1971 Brown Pinto and a few boxes of, among other things, pictures of my father in pink leather at a Halloween Party, at the Inauguration of President Ronald Reagan, President Richard Nixon, of him as a young man with President Dwight D. Eisenhower. I moved all of his boxes into my mother's garage from his apartment and did what I could to organize things in the cold dark light of the crowded garage. To those looking for money, I told them simply that he had none. My brother, sister and I somehow came to an arrangement on how the boxes and things were to be distributed. After the holidays, I returned to college.

The death of my father, William Chester Bayer of HIV in 1987 marked the end of the first year of the scourge of AIDS / HIV deaths that took so many lives from 1987 - 1992. Although my mother had been divorced from him for ten years, her employer fired her out of fear and mis-information about how AIDS was transmitted. If my father had lived a few more years, then he may still be with us today, managing, like a lot of people, on a regimen of medication, and lifestyle changes.

After all these years, my brother, sister and I have stopped passing the loosely packed boxes around to each other. They contained untouchable, painful pieces of family history that we'd rather not open.  And indeed, it took us years to open and organize the boxes. It took years to decide what pieces of family history we were going to cherish, pass on, and tell our children about their biological Grandfather, the only child of a cattle rancher and schoolteacher, the simple part he played in our lives, and his complicated yet unintentional place in History.

Two decades after his death, although the things have been distributed, my siblings and I are still unsure what to tell our children, his five grandchildren, about their biological Grandfather.  Today, we tell them that this is the day their Grandfather died, and say that we wish they were able to know him, simply and without complications.

©2009 by Heidi Bayer and South Slope Brooklyn Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Kashmiris in Brooklyn

As I sit in my beautiful loft which was converted from a Catholic School into a condominium five years ago in the Southern Slope of Brooklyn, I load my iTunes with the South Indian ragas of L Subramanimam. From the first time I heard Indian music while studying at California Institute of the Arts in the late eighties, the raga has always represented, for me, a way to gather my thoughts, relax and meditate. And so I find myself, twenty years later, doing the same on a different coast, not as a student, but as a professional, a mother and a wife to the same man I fell in love with in College.

This time of year, one would expect to hear Christmas music coming from the stereo, and, many times this week it has. However, as we near the final week before December 25th, and the final two weeks before the end of the year, my thoughts turn to those generous, magical and musical souls that we have lost in recent years.

Two years ago the planet lost, among others, Daniel Morris, a young man in his late thirties, to a complicated series of illnesses. Dan was, among many things, the drummer in my husband, James Carney’s group for years and had recorded on some of his albums. He had attended California Institute of the Arts after us, had studied South Indian drumming and had lived in South India in the nineties for a year while studying with his guru. Dan enjoyed his trip to India and, in later years, would speak of it often. Upon his return he brought my husband and I two Kashmiri shawls. He explained one was for me, the red/pink one, and one for Jim, the green one. Some time later, as we were re-finishing our house, and preparing for the birth of our first child - I put them in our cedar chest for safe keeping.

After fourteen years, a move across the country and two years after Dan’s passing, the South Indian Kashmiri shawls have found their way out of the cedar chest and into my winter wardrobe. This week in the frigid cold seedlings of winter, I have found that if I wrap my head with the scarf and throw the rest of it over my shoulder, I do not need a hat. I feel somehow that wearing the Kashmiri’s in order to keep myself warm, not only honors the loss of Dan and others this time of year, but it also helps to keep the innate sadness at bay, the feeling of loss that always overwhelms me this time of year.

While moving forward into 2010, I would like to honor those who are no longer here, and send a message of hope, warmth, solace, and peace as the planet prepares to transition to another year. If you happen to see me walking down the street wrapped tightly in a red or green Kashmiri scarf, please say hello and pass on the message of hope, warmth and love.

An abbreviated listing of those glorious souls gone too soon:

William Chester Bayer d. 1987
John Charles Carney d. 2006
Hilary Case Ake d. 2006
Daniel Morris d. 2007
Lily Burk d. 2009

©2009 All Rights Reserved by South Slope Brooklyn Blog. No parts may be printed, reprinted, or shared without the express permission of the owner.