Forum Holitorium

Category: food

Fall Checkup

The previous post was about sickness and waiting for spring. Now it is fall, the season of marvelous kitchen still lifes, of breakfasts of an apple sliced and stewed with two heaping tablespoons of rolled oats and a teaspoon of cinnamon, of dinners of baked squash doused in thyme served with rice. On the mend from an obstinate cold or “grippaler Infekt,” I am experiencing an inexplicable yearning for winter, snow, and darkness. It started mid-August. While perusing Ravelry, I fell in love with a knitting pattern, and it soon became clear that the Slovene wool that had impertinently refused to become several different sweaters had just been holding out for The One. The cardigan flew off the needles and was finished just in time for the first dip in temperatures.

This project was a turning point for me. This was the first time I experienced deeply that it is not about the pattern alone (which had previously been my focus – I like the pattern, therefore I will knit it); it is about the interplay of fiber and pattern, of what happens when they come together, of how they complement each other like yin and yang or night and day. I swear the yarn called out to me and said something to the effect of “Make me into a Wheatsheaves. If you knit me into that pattern, I will finally behave!”

Convalescing on the couch, I had ample time to peruse a bunch of magazines and select a few recipes to try out. It wasn’t until yesterday that I had the stamina to tackle the first one: a German take on Tuscan cookies, vegan and chock full of raisins, walnuts, and pine nuts. The recipe included wheat bran, something I don’t remember having encountered in a recipe since the eighties. (Readers of a certain age, remember the bran muffin?) The cookies got the thumbs up from my resident food taster.

Outfitted with a garment to keep my upper body well wrapped and snug in the damp, cold October weather to come, I have shifted my focus to my feet. There is just enough yarn left over from the two pairs of socks I knit last winter for a pair of no heel socks. They are supposed to remain hole-free longer because the heel doesn’t rub the exact same place each time. (And yes, the two skeins like the color of the other and are intrigued about being socks without heels.)

Enjoy the fall and take heed of any messages from your yarn!



April Braid

A cold clouds my mind. I puzzled a few days over how to tie together pictures and thoughts into a coherent blog entry. How about braiding together three strands of my preoccupations in April: baking bread, knitting neck warmers, and walking in the woods?

The leftover wool wrap in brioche stitch is finally done and protecting my neck and shoulders as I write. It was a good exercise to improvise a pattern, to go through the steps of envisioning what I wanted, researching and learning a new technique (two color brioche), and bringing this vision to life. It had been months since I last made a garment for myself. This is one I will get a lot of use out of; I have already worn it every day since finishing it. Along with one blue sock, my knitting bowl now holds yarn for two cowls – one thick, one thin – that will match most of my spring wardrobe.

It is finally warm enough to open the windows and let in fresh air. Despite my cold, I have gotten out walking every day and can’t get enough of the sunshine and milder temperatures. Tuesday I visited St. Radegund again, my favorite forest near Graz. It has been weeks since I was last there. Fresh air, sunshine, a circling kestrel, eight deer. I am learning a lot about the forest in Germany and Austria from Peter Wohlleben‘s book Der Wald: Eine Entdeckungsreise (The Forest: A Journey of Discovery). Over the course of his career as a forester in Germany, Wohlleben has turned his back on practices he learned during his training and is attempting to forge a more sustainable forestry practice by moving away from the status quo of spruce and pine monoculture (spruce and pine being trees common to the taiga further north) to the restoration of the beech forests that originally covered Central Europe.

One great obstacle to the restoration of beech forests is the overpopulation of deer brought about by the absence of natural predators (wolves and lynx) and their protection by hunters. Yes, you read that correctly. Hunters want their hunting grounds to be full of deer, so they feed them. Yet they do not kill enough deer to keep the population in check. Instead of a sustainable density of one deer per square kilometer, the density today is more like 40 to 50 deer. The result: the deer eat up the young deciduous trees. More deer also means more ticks and thus more Lyme disease. Lots of questions about “my” forest in Radegund are forming as I read this book. Since it is in the Alps, I wonder to what extent the spruce and pine there are native – where the beech forest ended and the conifer forest of the Alps began. There is so much to learn about trees.

There is a lot to learn about baking bread too. Since I will soon be on the other side of the Atlantic for some time, I am putting off working with a sourdough starter. Inspired by Fanatic Cook’s recent no-knead whole wheat bread experiment, I have made two loaves with yeast and long fermentation (40 hours plus) that have turned out tasty. Since I don’t have a special pot for bread, I have just plopped the dough into a square cake pan and let it take on whatever shape it wanted. The elongated hexagon of the latest loaf is quite elegant.

May April bring you fresh air, fresh baked bread, and a warm neck!