Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Blizzard Bread

Well I don't think anyone is making any official estimates yet but my guess is that at least in our part of Philadelphia we've gotten about 48 inches of snow over the last 5 days. Today we both stayed home from work due to 'blizzard warnings.' I'm not sure I've ever even seen a blizzard warning in my 25+ years here. Blizzards occur in Chicago, where I used to live, or Ithaca, where I also used to live, but not in Philadelphia. I've forgotten what snow and winter really are due to my 25 years here.

But no more. This is real snow!

I don't think I've ever shown food on this blog before, and unless you can squeeze the wild yeasts of sourdough bread into the nature category food isn't really art, birds or nature. Sourdough needs to be fed in order to be used for baking. So you can't just say: hey I'll make some sourdough bread today! You need to feed your starter for a day or two.

I had been doing that and it was ready today. And I was home all day. So time to make some sourdough bread. In this case I decided to make foccaccia, loosely based on the recipe in my bible of sourdough baking, "Nancy Silverton's Breads from the La Brea Bakery." The day many years ago when I decided to buy that book and learn to make sourdough bread was a life-changing experience. It took about 2 weeks to nurture my first starter so that it was strong enough to make bread. That was probably 10 years ago or so. Since then every winter is the time for sourdough bread.

But today I wanted to do something special: not just bread but foccaccia. Our cupboards are a bit bare so smoked turkey replaced anchovies, and cheddar cheese replaced Parmesan. Leftover broccoli raab, the last of some oil-cured olives and a lot of sesame seeds topped it off. A beautiful bread for the day of a blizzard.

Earlier in the day I worked on some dunlin sketches. I did live field sketches of these same birds at Bringantine NWR last October. But I had tremendous trouble with the slant of the bill in those sketches. Today I attempted to get a better sense of the bill and their overall structure. This is an exercise in learning as much as it is in art. Finally I turned to books by Charles Tunnicliffe, Eric Ennion and Roger Tory Peterson so see how the experts handled dunlins.

Finally a few photos of the snow. Just last weekend I posted a photo of our back yard and the snow on the lawn chair. Now the snow on the chair is almost twice as high and you almost can't see the chair!

Needless to say our birds are having a very hard time. The strong wind and snow instantly cover any food put on the ground and the feeders only hold so many birds. Hopefully tomorrow will bring better weather for the birds.

As for us I'm sure it's going to be one long, slow drive into work, if I can find the car in the snow.


Gabrielle said...

Ken, your bread looks and sounds delicious. It may not be nature, or birds, but I would categorize baking as an art. What a great way to spend a snowy day! I kind of miss having snow days. Here in the northern Rockies, there are no snow days. I lived in Philly for 20 years and my husband grew up there and neither of us remember back-to-back dumps of snow like what you are experiencing now, except maybe 1978. That was quite a snow year. Crazy.

The dunlin sketches are terrific!!! You really captured their movements and body language perfectly. Every pose screams "dunlin". Wow!

You mentioned Charles Tunnicliffe, Eric Ennion and Roger Tory Peterson. Are you familiar with the work of British artist Keith Brockie?

You and your wife have safe trips in to work tomorrow!

Pam Johnson Brickell said...

Can't think of a better way to spend a snow day! Beautiful ,and I bet, scrumptious bread! Love your dunlins. I saw those and dowitchers today. No snow here but birding in 30 degree weather with a WNW wind made be decide I've turned into a weather wimp.

I shutter to think of all the snow you've had. Happy and safe trails to you and your love.

Ken Januski said...

Hi Gabrielle and Pam,

Yes it did seem like a good use of the day. My feeling is that if you're going to have a 'snow day' make sure you put it to good use!

Funny you should ask about Keith Brockie Gabrielle. I've been a bit of a British bird art fan since reading John Busby's 'Drawing Birds' 3-4 years ago. But since I joined birdforum and the Wildlife Artists section there I've paid even more attention to British artists.

So this Christmas brought books by Keith Brockie, Charles Tunnicliffe, Bruce Pearson and Darren Woodhead. I've enjoyed them all and have finished all but one Tunnicliffe. Soon it will be time for rereading.

I envy you the dunlins and dowitchers Pam but you're right it's hard to enjoy 30 degree birding, especially if you're trying to sketch as well.

I never thought of it Gabrielle but you're right baking could qualify as an art. I have to say that I knew absolutely nothing about it before reading the Silverton book. Now I use our breadmaker in warmer weather and still use things I picked up in baking sourdough bread to help the breadmaker bread along when it misbehaves. If I ever met Nancy Silverton I'd have to tell her what a tremendous influence that one little book had on me.