Saturday, November 24, 2007

that thanksgiving thing

Thanksgiving is always an active time here in our family. Last year we invited some friends over and had the seven of us around the table; this year in addition to my parents, I invited a friend if mine who is going through a divorce to come over with her two daughters but she decided to decline. I re-extended the invitation again Wednesday, but she decided to stay at home. The big activity at school this week ― it was Wednesday morning, not quite five-thirty when I wrote this ― was the school's Harvest Festival, which probably should just be called Thanksgiving, but isn't.

It's traditional for the children to make some sort of communal meal they invite their parents to come share with them for lunch. In first and second grades, it was stone soup. And yes, they really did put stones in it. This year they made some kind of vegetable noodle soup, but because of my reputation as someone who bakes bread, Evangeline's teacher asked if I could help them make some bread too. She seemed surprised that I don’t have a bread machine, but agreed the students would probably find it more fun to mix and knead it all by hand.

So Tuesday morning I got up bright and early, boiled and mashed some potatoes, adapted some recipes on the fly from my cookbook so we could try them with sourdough, and took all the ingredients to the school so the kids in Evangeline's class could have fun making potato rolls and sourdough muffins. Wednesday morning I got up bright and early to bake them, and I have to say that they turned out all right.

The kids had a good time making them, too. I think the biggest excitement wasn't skipping their regular work plans, and it wasn't even the idea of making bread. It was getting their hands mucky in the dough, and getting to punch it as part of the kneading process. At least one kid had a nice rhythm going, as though he were using a punching bag. (I had to tell him that wasn't the idea.) When I picked Evangeline up yesterday, at least three kids ran over to tell me, "Mr. Learn! The bread’s getting bigger!"

I doubt any of them will remember the history and science I cunningly tried to sneak in there, but you never know. I’m sure they’ll all remember the taste. My bread is good enough that Evangeline's teachers last year all lamented at year’s end that they wouldn’t be getting it any more for holidays or when it was Evangeline's turn to bring in snack.

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