Nelly*, one of my residents, regularly disarms me with her dry wit. For example, her daughter gave her a calendar for Christmas. You know those calendars that you can made at a photo shop or online? Well, it is one of those. And every single month features the same little blonde girl, striking various poses, participating in a multitude of activities…you get the idea. So, after flipping through the calendar one day while chatting with Nelly, I asked her about the girl. “Nelly, who’s the cute little girl in all these pictures?” She looked at me, rolled her eyes, and said, “Oh God, doesn’t it just make you sick? Poor girl’s going to grow up thinking that everyone wants to look at her, be her friend, give her anything she wants. It just makes me sick to think how her parents are raising her.” I stutter for a second, “Oh, well, um isn’t she your granddaughter?” “Oh of course she is, and she’s a real sweetie, and she sure is pretty,” Nelly replies, “But that doesn’t mean I have to want to look at her 365 days a year!” I crack up because, I mean, well isn’t that the plain Jane truth without all the candy coating?
Nelly’s also easy to care for. She pages to use the bathroom at least once an hour (and that’s a conservative estimate) which certainly makes my legs tired from all the jogging up and down the stairs, but it’s not difficult. When I walk into her room she says, “Yup, need to use the toilet again,” I position her wheelchair, lock it, and firmly plant my arm in the crook of her armpit and, on the count of three, we heave up together from her recliner chair. I barely have time to help her plant her feet on the floor, before she plops down in the wheelchair, crooked, cockeyed, and without any pretense of grace. I look at her, slightly exasperated, and say, “Nelly, if you don’t wait for me to help you pivot, one day you’re going to end up on the floor!” She just laughs and replies, “I’m a dumper. I dump in my recliner and I dump in my wheelchair; I just gotta get there!” I shake my head, but I am smiling. All I can do is be there to make sure she transfers safely. I can’t always control whether it looks pretty or not. Once we’re in the bathroom, I wait just outside for her to finish, staring at the magnets on her fridge, proudly declaring that she is a “Ballard Norwegian” and “uff da!” The other day, the med tech knocked on the door just as Nelly was finishing. I ask Nelly if it’s okay if she comes in, and she says, “Oh, why not.” When the med tech offers her the small cocktail of pills and a cup of water, she chuckles, looks up at both of us and says, “There really is nothing like taking your medicine on the pot!”
In honor of Nelly’s refreshingly simple attitude, I am including this no-nonsense, ridiculously easy, recipe for bread.
No Knead Bread
From: Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes via Honey and Jam
Perfect for simple butter toast, sandwiches, pizza dough, bread bowls, naan…the list goes on, and on…
3 C. of lukewarm water
1 1/2 T. active dry yeast
1 1/2 T. coarse salt
6 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
Grab a very large mixing bowl, or a big container that you can cover. In it, mix the water, yeast, and salt. You don’t have to heat up the water to a precise optimal temperature for the yeast. Even regular tap water works. Just let that sit together for a while, then dump the flour all at once and stir with a wooden spoon. You don’t need to knead this, and you’re not looking to make it come together into a dough ball. You just want everything mixed well, with no streaks of flour left, and you’re done.
Leave it in your container, covered (but not airtight, or it’ll pop), for a few hours (1-2 worked for me). When it has risen and then deflated a bit, your dough is done. It’s ready to be used or stored in the refrigerator.
To bake the bread, just grab a chunk of dough (any size, the recipe suggests the size of a grapefruit). Dust your hands with flour to help prevent sticking, and gently pull the sides of the dough toward the bottom, rotating the dough, until you get a roundish shape with a smooth surface. It should only take you about a minute or less to do this. Don’t worry about bunching near the bottom. It will look rustic.
Put it on a cutting board that’s been dusted with cornmeal to prevent sticking, and let it rest for at least 40 minutes. No need to cover it. If the dough has been refrigerated, it helps to let it rest a little more, until it’s no longer chilled.
Twenty minutes before you are ready to bake, put a cast iron skillet (or a pizza stone) in the middle rack of your oven, and put a broiler pan (I used a cookie sheet) in the bottom rack. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Dust some flour on the top of your loaf, and slash the top, about 1/4-inch deep.
After twenty minutes of preheating, it’s time to bake. (You can put the bread in after 20 minutes, even if your oven hasn’t reached 450 degrees yet.) Slide the loaf onto the baking stone, and then quickly pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler pan. Then quickly shut the oven door to keep the steam inside.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until you get a nice brown crust. Remove and let cool completely, if you can wait that long.
Recipe notes: It might seem difficult to incorporate all of the flour into the yeast mixture, but just keep mixing. You can add just a little bit of water at a time to help, if needed. The recipe calls for a pizza stone, but Honey and Jam suggested a cast iron skillet, which worked perfectly for me. Also, The Ivory Hut suggests that you let the dough sit longer during the rest period to encourage a nice sourdough flavor. I will try that next time! You can also mix your next batch together in the same bowl with the remnants of your last batch and get the same sexy sourdough effect.