I have been so busy doing fun things this past week. I have wanted to share those things with you, but I want to talk about something more serious first. I’m on the subway as I write this, rushing home to try to squeeze in a quick 30 minutes of yoga before I go out and meet a friend for dinner. I was going to write this later, but figured it was better to write it quickly on my phone, balancing as best as I can without holding onto the pole so I can furiously tap away. Just now, I was speed walking through Union Square, flying down the subway station steps, trying to get to the platform as fast as possible, when I was stopped. The person who stopped me was a guy about my own age, with reddish hair and yellow sunglasses. He tapped my shoulder. Normally I’d ignore this entirely, but he quickly moved around the left side of me to stand in my way. Okay, maybe I dropped something? Maybe I knew this person and he wanted to say hi? I stopped walking and pulled out one of my earbuds. I looked at him, thinking I’d see someone familiar, but I didn’t recognize this person. When he finally spoke, it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. “I saw you walking to the subway,” he said. “And I thought you were so beautiful that I had to stop you and tell you. Can I…” And I didn’t even let him finish. My immediate reaction to something like this is to flee. My other immediate reaction is to be as nice as possible, because this guy may very well be completely unhinged. You never know.
I cut him off, thanked him, told him that I had to get going, and raced through the subway turnstiles and down onto my platform. Then I started thinking. Was that incredibly mean? Should I have just let him finish speaking? Maybe he was just trying to be nice, trying to brighten someone’s day (albeit in the creepiest way possible). Maybe he was trying to sell me something. Maybe I’m completely overreacting? Maybe this, maybe that, maybe maybe. I don’t know. All I could think about, and all I can still thinking about, is that horrific shooting that happened in California. How that guy blamed what he had done on the women who didn’t accept his advances. I’m not so in love with myself that I think that this particular person is going to run off and cause some similar tragedy because I didn’t let him say his piece on the subway, but it was still on my mind. And then, all I could think about is the fact that I’m even thinking about this at all. It’s bullshit, to be quite honest. Someone approached me on the subway, completely unsolicited, made me feel very uncomfortable, and now I’m standing underground, thinking about how I upset him? What the hell is that? Where does that guilt come from?
When someone catcalls you on the street, you at least feel completely justified in yelling at them, giving them the finger or ignoring them altogether. This is a little different, though, and it clearly shook me a little, mostly because I was surprised at how I couldn’t get this less-than-a-minute run-in out of my head. How am I supposed to behave in this kind of situation? I hate myself for spending half of my evening running through the things I could have done, or why I should feel one way or another. I shouldn’t feel bad for not wanting to talk to a strange man on the subway. I shouldn’t feel like it’s my responsibility to coddle this person and hear them out just because I’m afraid of making them feel scorned. I should be able to do whatever I want to do. I hate that I thanked him for his unsolicited speech and told him to have a nice day. I wish I would have been able to articulate that this kind of approach is scary and women navigate situations like this, and much, MUCH worse, all day every day, so get the hell away from me. I don’t know what that guy was thinking as I swiped my Metrocard and left, and I will never know. There’s no moral here; nothing that I learned as a result of this situation. This is the way the world is, and I can only imagine people reading this and thinking that I’m some privileged baby for whining about what was, at the end of the day, a pretty benign thing. But it’s not about the fact that this wasn’t a “big deal” where nothing dangerous really happened. It’s about how I’m still sitting here, worrying about how I’m supposed to act when in reality, this guy should have been thinking about how HE was supposed to act. That’s what pisses me off the most.
Anyway, I wanted to share this bread recipe because it’s the only thing I could think to share along with this story. I wanted to share something wholesome and comforting, something to take your mind off the novel I just spat out at you. Making bread is a stress reliever – I probably should have thrown together a loaf last night. This bread in particular can help calm your nerves because it’s of the no knead variety. That’s right – there is truly no kneading involved at all. I’ve seen this recipe over and over again on various blogs and websites, but I really do enjoy kneading bread every now and then, but this bread was made for a party in which I had already committed myself to making a few other things, so I ~needed~ to make something simple. Why not give this tried and true variety a try? I was pleased with the results. The bread was nice and holey (maybe even a little bit holy), but still firm enough to sop up leftover sauces and broths from a bowl of whatever delicious meal you’ve just eaten. I used all-purpose flour here, and while it worked well, I’ve been told that bread flour is even better, so next time I’ll be giving that one a go. If you’re afraid of yeast, this is a great beginner recipe to show you that it can, indeed, be tamed. Throw the dough for this bread together on a Friday night after you come home from a night out (yes, I did just that), then get it baking while you have your coffee in the morning. Slather a slice with some honey and jam and tell me that you don’t love baking bread, too.
Mix together your shaggy dough, cover and let it sit overnight.
Then it will get nice and holey – see? Shape it, let it rest, and bake in a hot Dutch oven.
I made two loaves – this is one of them after baking with the cover on.
The second loaf was a bit more rounded – such is life. Bake for an additional 30 minutes or so, until browned.
Allow to cool completely before slicing. This bread will keep well at room temperature, covered, for up to 3 days.
- 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting*
- ¼ teaspoon instant yeast (I used active dry yeast - worked fine for me)
- 1¼ teaspoons salt
- 1½ cups warm water (115 degrees F)
- Additional flour, cornmeal or wheat bran as needed (for dusting/decoration)
- In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1½ cups water and stir until blended. The dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature (if it's cooler in your apartment, you can place the bowl in an OFF oven).
- Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles - I left mine for about 15 hours. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. The dough will be incredibly loose and wet - just go with it! It may feel like you are just pouring liquid out of a bowl and it will feel weird - this is okay. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
- Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size but will NOT readily spring back when poked with a finger, unlike most breads.
- At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats - I used a Dutch oven. When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is fine! Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 30 minutes or so, until the loaf is browned and golden. Cool on a rack and slice only when cooled.
- *I used all-purpose flour this time around, but I've spoken to a few friends who have also tried this recipe and the consensus seems to be that while AP works just fine, bread flour will make a better loaf. I'll try it next time and report back!