Your "good manners message" was received here with raised eyebrows and sharpened attention. Do things like this still exist? I lost out on a date once because I tried to open the car door for her. I had her coat rudely ripped out of my hands when I tried to help her with it. Without a smile, she pushed past me and knocked me into the door post when I tried to enter the restaurant first in order to ensure it was a place suitable for her visit. Etc. And over the years I settled for the thought that what we had learned as good behavior did no longer count in the modern world. But none of the girls who went against my grain in these small ways became the grandmother of your children. Now, after your message, I fear I have a long and hard upward haul back into a mode where I was when I left dancing lessons in senior high, hovered there for a while, then slowly began to slip – once, again, and again. Thanks for the eye opener.
Still with the warm memory of our transition into the new year, I am slowly recovering from the cold that I brought to you from Sneads Ferry. Not that anyone there gave it to me – no, they all remained untouched, but I picked it up there, because I had it during the short day-and-a-half here before I started out to come to you, and almost did not. I hope I did not deposit it in your house? And as things begin to look better through the burning and tearing eyes, old plans come back to life again. Originally, I thought to get a birthday card for you up there, but as things developed, this plan was shattered. Then I thought to make up for it by getting one here and mailing it, but, under the restraining grip of the bacterial assault, I missed this connection, too, and now am forced to send you my greetings through this uncouth media of digitized mail.
There is, however, in considered foresight, a birthday greeting from me "hidden" in Opa's room, between the little book shelf and the wall in the far left corner when you come through the door. Oh, you found it already! It is, as you must have read from the label, a (ask Google) – a round basket made of natural cane, used to proof bread dough before baking. I saw those offered by Bob's Red Mill when I ordered a shipment of 5-grain cereal, and since I remember these things from way, way back, I got me one. That last bread I baked before Christmas, of which you tasted and declared good, was proofed in one of those baskets. The first rise of that dough was scarily ineffective, and the second also totally unsatisfactory. That's when this first basket came through the mail and I washed it and dried it and threw the dough in it, covered it with a towel, and let it stand – and wouldn't you believe it, it rose to more than double its size after all the stress it gave me at first! Back then, when you tasted the bread, I could not tell you about this for fear to give away my plans for your birthday.
Now, one such story proves nothing, but I am looking forward to your own story of resounding success. May it give you joy in providing your family's daily bread.
The use of this ancient baker's helper is remarkably simple: flower the dry mold liberally, place your dough in it (it has a capacity for a two-pound loaf), let it take its final rise, and simply dump it onto a baking sheet or stone or whatever you use to bake, this last area prepared the way you always prepared it in the past. Generations of bakers have graduated with these things and the result, including the distinctive pattern on the finished loaf, will assure many more generations making use of it.
In this sense, I wish you a great birthday, and great days to follow. May health and wealth and happiness be yours tomorrow and always.
With love, Opa
From stock like that, how could my man not be terrific?! It is so wonderful to be known, and gifts when I feel most known are the ones when I feel most loved. I'm so excited to try this new dough-proofing basket! Thank you, sweet Opa! Many happy returns all around!