Sourdough Bread and Book Reviews
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ES 585 – Raising Fifth Ward -Fall 2018
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ES 110 Intro to Envi. Sci. Fall 2018
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Community Resilience: Meadville, PA
Can Meadville, PA be sustainable, resilient community by 2030? Check out this report from Spring, 2018.
This website was prepared by students enrolled in the Allegheny College Junior Seminar in Sustainable Development (Environmental Science 585) in the spring semester, 2018. We used the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to assess how the city of Meadville, PA was doing in making progress toward achieving sustainability by 2030.
I’ve moved. From now on book and bread reviews will appear here, https://readingwritingsourdough.blogspot.com/. If you want to read occasional reviews of books I’ve read or breads I’ve baked, roll over to the blog and submit your email address at the top right. Every once in a while you’ll get an automatic email with the blog post right after I’ve posted it. Thank you.
Darktown by Thomas Mullen **** (of 4)
Following the end of WWII, the Atlanta Police Force reluctantly added eight African American police officers. Their beats were restricted to Darktown, the part of Atlanta without streetlights, and it almost goes without saying, without white people. Two recently hired war veterans, Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith, stumble across an inebriated white man with a young black woman in his car. After they see her get punched and then escape from her driver they later find her body buried among trash in a vacant lot. Superficially, the novel is a 1940s murder mystery in the south, but the real story is the unflinching detail with which we observe Boggs and Smith endure Jim Crow. They are forbidden from arresting criminals, only white officers can, so they must subdue adversaries, run to a telephone, and call for a squad car whose white officers may or may not arrive. They may not question, nor even look into the eyes, of white officers, or for that matter, white men. They may not be seen alone with, nor speak to white women without fear of subsequent lynching. Boggs and Smith choose to uphold the law where they can while circumventing a white police force that alternately extorts, threatens, shoots, and convicts Atlanta’s blacks and despises its colored comrades. As with most elements of Jim Crow I don’t know whether I am more offended by the inhumane behavior of America’s white racists or the fact I was never taught anything about Jim Crow at any point in my education. The heat in this extremely well written mystery is as intense as a breezeless summer day in Atlanta. The audio version of this book is excellent.
Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith *** (of 4)
This is the third in the Cormoran Strike series of murder mysteries written by J.K. Rowling under the Galbraith pseudonym. In this case, a psychopath murders women, pulls apart their bodies, and as the book opens, he hand delivers a severed leg to Strike’s assistant, Robin Ellacott. Four potential suspects immediately come to the mind of private detective Strike. While Strike and Ellacott investigate four bad men have a motive for wanting to ruin Strike by accosting his assistant, the British police bumble about like Keystone cops. Meanwhile, what was obvious to us in book one, now dawns on Cormoran and Robin: they are in love with one another. Unfortunately, Robin prepares to get married to her long-time fiancee and Cormoran dallies with a sexy, but not very interesting girlfriend he has picked up on the rebound from his last relationship. Rowling’s strength lies in her observations. She lands her protagonists in a town, and I know now, after having been to some of the places described in this book, describes every important storefront and unusual curve in the road with delightful accuracy. She hears every dog bark, recalls what everyone she met along the way was wearing beneath their overcoat, and reproduces accent and dialogue with impeccability. For sense of place and character she is a fine read. This mystery was gruesome, the budding love affair formulaic, and her lengthy descriptions were sometimes tedious.
Good and Bad Bakes
So Sue and I purchased a new oven and the oven and I are getting to know one another.
My first bakes turned out a lot of breads that didn’t brown very well. This everything bagel (sesame, poppy, salt, and toasted garlic) tasted great. They were very chewy and were really authentic, but alas, a little flat and pale.
This fancy recipe pumpkin sourdough looked fine enough, but there was a problem. My longtime Cripple Creek sourdough (1893) had caught an infection. Don’t ask: little filamentous things growing on top and cheesy smell. I tossed it and in reviving a dried sample I had in storage I failed to wait a sufficient number of days before trying to bake with it. The result was a pumpkin bread that looked good, but didn’t rise.
And these two loaves which also looked good but never cooked in the middle. The same insufficiently mature sourdough meant the bread didn’t really spring in the oven. I was getting closer, however, to figuring out how to get the breads to brown in the new oven.
In the interim, Isaac and Delaney made sauerkraut (left) and kimchi (right), both natural fermentations, and both very tasty.
I got one bread to cook well in a cast iron pot. Here you see it with a naturally cracked surface and a beautiful open crumb (those are all the holes you see inside the bread.)
And finally, the oven and I have begun coming to agreement. Check out the ears on the cuts of this spelt-rye baguette. When professional bakers score their breads they aim for a cut that peels back in the oven and toasts just a bit as it rises above the loaf. My first success.
Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich *** (of 4)
Alexievich won the Nobel Prize for her oral histories of Russia and the Soviet Union. Secondhand Time includes exquisitely curated accounts of members of the Former Soviet Union beginning with old-timers that can still recall Stalin. She speaks with citizens still longing for the stability Stalin’s rule ensured and intermingles enough survivors of the gulag to make clear that nothing was worth the bloodshed and destruction that accompanied Stalin’s tyranny. She continues with accounts from the post-Stalin era through the Yeltsin restoration of order and Gorbachev’s opening to capitalism. Her interviewees make abundantly clear that replacing the communist ideal of equality for all with the frenzied shark attacks of capitalism has not been a smooth nor beneficial transition. The oligarchs have profited beyond anyone’s wildest needs and the needy have been left to struggle to survive. Young people that have never known anything but capitalism, according to their elders, worship materialism over community and mutual support. Like many Russian pieces of literature, Secondhand Time is extensive and thorough, almost as if you were in kitchen after kitchen drinking Russian tea and then vodka deep into the night. The final picture is masterful, with one caveat. Alexievich never really describes her methods and there is some evidence that she has moved quotations from one speaker to another in different publications suggesting some of her books might be as much fiction as non-fiction. That changes how you read her, I’m afraid.