When I was a very young women and at that point of my life, I lived with my Grandmother on my Mom’s side who we referred to as Mammaw. She lived in a big old white Victorian home with a porch and a wonderful swing that you could sit and swing while sipping your fresh lemonade.
I remember that during the summer when the windows were open, a breeze which carried a blend of honey and grass to my nose would awake me in the morning. In the evening, the moist smell of the air was thicker and had almost a woody hint to it along with the sounds of crickets whose rhythm would put you to sleep. Morning was the sound of birds chirping and singing. I always wondered what they were saying to one another or were they talking to me? There were chores for each day so no guessing, if it was Monday, you would do the laundry, Wednesday then you would dust, and Thursday, you would mop. The other days were optional to other things that needed daily care. Bringing the sheets in from the line and folding was one of my favorite chores as the smell of freshness stayed in the cotton fabric and would refresh me.
Dinner was something we would think about early because it needed to be prepared. Unlike today were life speeds along with prepared foods and machinery to adjust time to your liking, this was not the case. One memory that I did not like at the time, but find myself going back to recall was the gathering of walnuts from Mammaw’s yard. The big Walnut tree would yield a great many and I would take the basket out to be filled when it was time. That was not the end of the chore. It was the beginning.
The Walnuts were rough and hard and I did not see the purpose of all of the effort to retrieve a small piece of something to eat. Gathering the nuts sounds easy; however they have a green moss like cover to them that needs to be taken off before cracking open the shell with a hammer on the step. I then would pick out the source of the meat of this nut and place it into a pretty medium sized bowl that we designated our Walnut bowl. Behind the shell is a black and very ugly protective coating before you get to the nutmeat. Once the job is done, the nuts would be placed into a large jar and used sparingly for fudge, walnut bread and other good eats of that time.
Very nostalgic thoughts they are. I suppose, my thoughts seem to go to places that made sense. At that time, most of life was simple and the parts that were complicated were unknown to me. Well, that is not totally true because the process of life is not unlike the process of preparing the Walnuts to eat. There are moss like, hard shells and dark protective coatings to our human psyche as well. Everything has a season, and although our seasons have become not as predictable as those decades ago, we still look forward to life.
I share these thoughts with you in hopes that you too will ponder a simpler time in your life when baseball, ice cream trucks and cardboard doll houses were vogue. We did not get our cars detailed and nails done because it did not matter. I wonder what will matter to our little ones in their future. A good friend once told me that “Everything will be all right”. I now know these words to be true.
Happy New Year to you and yours in 2015.
Date Walnut Bread Recipe
In a bowl mix the chopped dates with the baking soda and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Pour 1 cup (240 ml) of boiling water over the dates, stir, and leave to cool to room temperature (this takes about 30 minutes).
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Butter, or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray, a 9 x 5 x 3 inch (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf pan. Then line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper.Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 – 10 minutes or until lightly brown and fragrant. Let cool and then chop coarsely.
In your food processor place the flour, sugar, baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt and ground cinnamon. Process to combine and then add the butter. Process until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
Transfer the flour mixture to a large bowl and stir in the chopped walnuts. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg with the vanilla extract. Then add the beaten egg mixture and the cooled dates (along with the water) to the flour mixture and stir just until combined. Place the batter into your prepared pan, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon.
Bake about 55 to 65 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and set, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out just clean. Place on a wire rack to cool and then remove the bread from the pan.
This bread will keep for several days at room temperature. It can also be frozen. Makes one – 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf
- 8 ounces (225 grams) dried pitted dates, coarsely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups firmly packed coarsely chopped dates)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (240 ml) boiling water
- 1/2 cup (50 grams) walnuts
- 2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (105 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
- 1/2 cup (113 grams) cold unsalted butter, diced
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract