The seed catalogs flooding the mailbox always inspire me to reflect upon my garden and pantry this time of year. I evaluate the successes and operational challenges, design my planting rotation, select new seed varieties, and set goals for the New Year.
As a foodie, I also like to look at trends in the gastronomical and dining world, and how we as human beings feed ourselves.
And 2020 was quite a year! The COVID-19 pandemic spurred some fundamental changes in how we live and eat.
Grocery shopping became streamlined with on-line ordering, curbside pick-up, personal shoppers, and senior hours. Take-away replaced restaurant in-house dining. Consumers shifted more of their food source choices to local options by directly ordering from Maine farms and dairies, and participating in vegetable, meat, and bread CSA’s, and other forms of community supported agriculture.
This pandemic highlighted many of the weaknesses of the global, industrial food system. Supply chain shocks created short –and- long term disturbances in our food reserves; milk was dumped, pigs and cattle slaughtered, fruits and vegetables rotted, all because they could not get to markets. The healthy and safety of agricultural and food service workers, once taken for granted, became vital to our food source.
Because food and nutrition play a crucial role in the health of our people and their communities, hunger and food insecurity moved to the forefront. People began practicing more acts of culinary self-reliance: bread baking, pickling, gardening, root cellaring, raising rabbits, chickens and pigs. Hunting, foraging, and fishing progressed beyond a backyard hobby to putting food on the dinner table. Home cooking and comfort food became the new norm.
Bread baking has always been one of my favorite acts of culinary self-reliance, and Oatmeal Bread is the family favorite. If you’re a novice, now is a great time to start bread baking, particularly with Maine grown grains. Treat yourselves to the heady aroma of a freshly baked loaf. Slather it with butter and enjoy your talent.
The spirit of independence demonstrated by folks this past year by breaking away from the industrial food chain gives me great hope. I know in my heart that to have control over your food supply provides one with a deep sense of security. In these uncertain times, it is perhaps the one thing we can control, just by baking Oatmeal Bread.
Interested in the concept that perhaps Maine people can actually feed themselves?
Please visit: https://mofga.org/Pledge/Can-Maine-Feed-Itself
- 2 cups cooked oatmeal
- ½ cup milk
- 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ¼ cup butter
- ½ cup honey or maple syrup
- 3 cups whole-wheat flour
- 3 cups all purpose or bread flour more or less as needed
- Oats to roll dough in
- Assemble ingredients and tools.
- In the bowl of your food processor or electric mixer, combine the cooked oatmeal, honey or maple syrup, salt, and butter. If the oatmeal was still hot, allow the mixture to cool to 110 degrees or cooler.
- Add the yeast.
- Add the flour in batches, beating with the hook until the dough makes a ball and sticks together.
- Cover and let rise until double in bulk, about 1 ½ hour.
- On a well-floured surface, punch down the dough and knead into a ball.
- Divide the dough into 2 pieces (each weighing about 2 pounds) or 4 pieces (each weighing about 1 pound).
- Shape into loaves, roll in oats, and place in greased bread pans. Cover, and let rise again until double in bulk, about 50 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (or 315 convection). Bake the bread until golden and the loaf makes a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom, about 40 – 50 minutes.
- Remove from pan and let cool on a rack. Store in plastic bags. Makes 2 – 2 pound loaves. Serving size is one 60-gram slice.