June 17, 2010

Horse(ing around) | World Bread Day

Some time ago, I watched this lovely video, and it brought back a couple of indelible horse memories. I haven't had much experience with horses, actually, these may be the only two, but they were both unforgettable. One was years ago during a trip to England when we detoured from our route to visit the edge of a moor; I had read about the wild ponies of Dartmoor, and was hoping to see them. Plus, Wuthering Heights was one of my favorite books, and although it took place in Yorkshire in a different location on a completely different moor, the romance and mystery of the moors was in my mind. Honestly, I figured I was more likely to see Heathcliff stumbling across the landscape than the ponies. But in a truly magical moment, I DID see them. They appeared out of nowhere, I looked into their eyes, and they looked into mine, and then they were gone.

The second memory is more down to earth, so to speak, and comes from a high school escapade. I attended an all girls, all-academic magnet school in a large urban city. As a whole, the girls at my school behaved well and did not cause trouble — me included. Every so often, though, one or two of us might get a subversive idea or two.

One gorgeous spring day, my friend Ricki and I decided to cut school and go horseback riding. I believe this was Ricki's idea, as I'd never been horseback riding, and it wasn't something I thought about doing. She knew a stable in Fairmount Park, and we went there to ride, in a group, with a guide. Up close to the horse assigned to me, I was shocked. He was about three times the size I was imagining, and once up in the saddle, I could see it was a long, long way to the ground. The guide assured me he was a gentle, obedient horse, and we headed off on a trail. We'd gotten some distance into the park when suddenly, without warning, my horse took off at a full gallop. I was stunned and horrified. Our guide took off after me, and for a few brief moments I imagined myself as "the heroine" on a runaway horse in a movie, with the hero (red bandanna around his neck and cowboy hat on his head) chasing after me in rescue. Yeah, right.

We were in a huge urban greenway, with many trees and other obstacles, and my horse was dodging them at full speed. Then we headed towards a low, open building that would have cut the horse (and me) off at the neck. I figured this was it, but at the last second the horse swerved, and continued its mad run. I truly believed I was going to die, and I actually saw my entire life flashing before my eyes. It was pretty incredible — like a movie reel where each frame was a different event. I mean, I could literally SEE the movie film, frame by frame, in slow motion. It was brilliantly clear, and I was stunned at all the things I'd forgotten. I saw my life with new understanding, and some things that had been confusing were revealed with clarity. (Sounds a little like Lost.) Seeing all these scenes was amazing and uplifting, and I suddenly realized I didn't want to die. I told myself it was stupid and unnecessary to die because of this horse, in this park. (Remember, all this is taking place on horseback at about a million miles an hour, at super-human brain-speed!) I felt myself loosing my balance, and decided the thing to do was to land softly. (I'm laughing here at the memory so it's OK if you laugh, too.) I didn't know exactly how to do this, but as I was headed over the side of the horse I did my best. Land softly, I thought ... land softly. Just land softly and everything will be OK.

Over the horse I went, landing on my back in the gravel. As I lay there afraid to move, the guide who'd been chasing after me without success (no bandanna, no cowboy hat), walked over to where I lay and said, "here's your shoe." I thought he should have been slightly more solicitous and asked if I was all right or if anything was broken. Perhaps I was slightly in shock. Eventually I got up and brushed the dirt and gravel from my clothes. Here my memory fades, and I can't remember why I wasn't escorted back to the stable and my friend. I wandered out of the park, clueless as to where I was, and eventually found a bus stop and made my way back home. By the time I arrived home, hours later, I was dizzy and my head hurt, so I confessed all to my mother and she called the doctor. I really had terrible luck whenever I cut school. Sheesh.

Had I been a little more creative, I'm sure I could have come up with a holiday to celebrate instead of just cutting school to go horseback riding. For example, I could have cut school to celebrate World Bread Day, and baked a bread instead of galloping off to the park. It would have been a lot simpler. But I didn't learn about World Bread Day until today, thanks to Hannah, who posted a spectacular celebratory bread on Bittersweet blog.

To celebrate, I made an easy bread (of course) but spectacular in its own way, with a crackly, crispy crust and tender crumb filled with olives and roasted garlic. I'm going to use World Bread Day to encourage everyone who "doesn't have time to bake" to consider trying the breads from Artisan bread in Five Minutes a Day or Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Once you get the hang of it, it really is easy to bake delicious breads with very little effort. You store the dough in the refrigerator and take it out to bake as needed. Yes, it really takes more than five minutes to let the dough rise and bake it of course, but it takes no time at all to shape a loaf if you have the dough on hand.

Before I made the olive and garlic bread, I had to use up the last of my refrigerated dough so I rolled it out and baked it into a flatbread on a cast iron skillet. We used it for lunch, filled with hummus and roasted peppers.

At the top of the post is a bread made from the basic HBin5 recipe and enhanced with caraway seeds. Happy World Bread Day!

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