There’s a wildness in the sky. Wind lashes curtains of rain across the world beyond my windows. Little snow remains, only scattered thin drifts at my yard’s edge. Heavy rainfall warnings have been issued for all three of Canada’s Maritime Provinces, and parts of New Brunswick will receive snow. Lots of snow.
I knew the storm was coming. I could smell it in the air yesterday. Any time the stench from the pulp mill 60 kilometres away in Pictou drifts our way, as it did yesterday, it means a storm is imminent, and usually a big one. I walked country roads for 45 minutes before dusk, my hiking boots leaving clean imprints in fresh snow. Vehicles passed me, but the natural world was nearly silent. I saw nary a bird and heard only one faint call (chickadee?). It was as though my wild neighbours were already hunkering down in anticipation of inclement weather.
So I returned to my house and sliced and froze most of four loaves of home-baked bread, leaving a few slices for Vilis and me to enjoy along with our simple supper of chicken and vegetable soup made from scratch. And when I say ‘from scratch,’ I really mean from scratch. Last summer, Vilis raised the chicken that provided the soup stock and meat morsels, and I grew the parsnips, carrots, beans, onions, broccoli, and dill in my garden. We’re self-sufficient types and believe in the goodness of home cooking, preferably using ingredients we’ve produced. So this soup was a coalescence of past and present made complete by buttered slices of oatmeal flax sunflower seed bread. Wholesome and delicious, that bread held memories of my sons growing up and eating countless slices of it, and of family road trips during which we paused to munch chicken salad or tuna salad or egg salad sandwiches at picnic tables in parks. But mostly, that bread provided comfort, a sense of well-being, and the certainty that we would weather the storm, whatever it might bring. Some people eat ‘storm chips.’ We ate ‘storm bread.’
Recipe for Oatmeal Flax Sunflower Seed Bread (makes 4 large loaves):
4 3/8 ncups boiling water, 1 7/8 cups oatmeal, 5/8 cup honey, 1 1/4 tablespoons salt, 5/12 cup olive oil, 5/8 cup ground flax seeds, 5/8 cup sunflower seeds. Mix all these ingredients together in a large bowl and cool to lukewarm. Add 1 1/4 cups warm water, 5 cups whole wheat flour, 4 cups all-purpose flour, and 2 1/2 tablespoons of instant yeast. Mix well and turn out onto a floured surface. Cover dough with bowl and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Knead dough, adding another cup of all-purpose flour if necessary to make dough smooth and springy. Don’t overknead. Place dough in greased bowl, cover with waxed paper and tea towel and set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour. Turn dough out onto an oiled surface and pound down dough. Cut into 4 equal pieces, shape into loaves, and place in non-stick bread pans. Allow to rise 15 to 20 minutes, then preheat oven to 375°F while loaves continue to rise (total rising time about 30 minutes). Don’t allow loaves to overrise, or their tops will collapse. Bake for 25 minutes and cool on racks. Then enjoy!