Jazz, Pyrex, Snowheart

This morning did a repeat of something I tried last Sunday. Listened to jazz during practice. Yikes!

What jazz, you ask? None other than Herbie Hancock’s new River: The Joni Letters. I have no idea if any of the ashtangi.net folks even know who Joni Mitchell is. I have never been a huge fan, except for her terrific lyrics and her intimations of jazz. The pop part, eh, not so much. And just as an aside, she’s always been a fiercely independent woman/artist. So props for that.

Hancock takes her work all the way to jazz, though, and wow, is it something.

And interesting to mix with Ashtanga. Ashtanga, to me, seems like a grid of regularity, a grid against which to plot daily divergences of body/mind (or, if you’d prefer: breath, bandha, and driste).

Jazz is similar in the sense that it, too, provides a grid, a system, and then maps divergences. Aw, might as well throw abstract painting in there, too, since we’re considering materials that affect/reflect the nervous system. There is the richness of the material, whether sonic or visual or energetic, and there is the regular beat, and there is the improv. Woohoo! Such fun.

Plotting the transcendent in relation to the methodical. I love minimalism, and always wonder how far order can be reduced before everything spins off into nothingness. What thread connects the semblance to the disintegrating grid? And is it a holding or a releasing? And so with jazz, consciousness comes undone — like shaking out a knot.

***

Yesterday I made my first loaf of artisan bread. A million thanks to Yogamum for bringing this book to my attention.

The road to artisan bread, however, is paved with drama. When it was time to pre-heat, I put my pizza stone in the oven, along with my oven thermometer and a Pyrex pan. The stone would hold the loaf as it cooked, and I’d put some water in the Pyrex pan to keep the oven humidified. Alrighty.

So finally the oven is properly heated, I put the loaf on the stone, and I pour some water into the Pyrex pan. Which immediately and LOUDLY explodes, shooting glass and water all over the place. Scared the crap out of me. I wondered if I should turn the oven off and just forget the whole thing. The water is sizzling on the bottom of the oven, the glass shards in there are creaking and splitting. Nah, I’ll just shoo the dog away and get out of range in case there’s anything else in there that can explode again. No sense jettisoning the cooking of the bread just because there is glass all over the bottom of the oven.

I did take a little time to deride myself for pouring water into a heated glass pan. Geez! How DUMB could I be?!?! But wait a minute! It’s Pyrex! Impervious to shifts in temperature! That’s the whole point of Pyrex. So I hopped online with the keywords, “Pyrex” and “explode.” And sure enough, Pyrex has a dirty little secret.

The loaf was free of embedded shards of glass, so I served some to The Cop when he woke up after his night shift. “I smell ARTISAN bread!” he said as he entered the kitchen. He is amused by the title of the book, which is very specific.

“Is there any glass in the ARTISAN bread?” he wanted to know after hearing about the Pyrex problem.

“This is very good ARTISAN bread,” was his pronouncement, once he’d given it a go.

And “I wish I could have another slice of ARTISAN bread, but it will spoil my dinner.”

For all of his goofing around about the bread, I have to say: this is the best freaking bread I have EVER tasted. Seriously. And you can make the dough on the weekend and have it ready for impromptu baking whenever you want during the week.

***

I have always loved the story of Won Hyo, at least in part because I can’t quite fathom it. And the part about the fawn (quoted below) has always been lovely but elusive.

In Silla, there was a very great Zen master—a little old man, with a wisp of a beard and skin like a crumpled paper bag. Barefoot and in tattered clothes he would walk through the towns ringing his bell. De an, de an, de an, de an, don’t think, de an, like this, de an, rest mind, de an, de an. Won Hyo heard of him and one day hiked to the mountain cave where he lived. From a distance he could hear the sound of extraordinarily lovely chanting echoing through the valleys. But when he arrived at the cave he found the master sitting beside a dead fawn, weeping bitterly. Won Hyo was dumbfounded. How could an enlightened being be either happy or sad, since in the state of nirvana there is nothing to be happy or sad about and no one to be happy or sad? He stood speechless for a while, and then asked the master why he was weeping.

The master explained. He had come upon the fawn after its mother had been killed by hunters. It was very hungry, so he had gone into town and begged for milk. Since he knew that no one would give milk for an animal, he had said it was for his son. “A monk with a son? Dirty old man!” people thought. But some gave him a little milk. He had continued this way for a month, begging enough to keep the animal alive. Then the scandal became too great, and no one would help. He had been wandering for three days now, in search of milk. At last he had found some, but when he had returned to the cave, his fawn was already dead. “You don’t understand,” said the master. “My mind and the fawn’s mind are the same. It was very hungry. I want milk, I want milk. Now it is dead. Its mind is my mind. That’s why I am weeping. I want milk.”

This morning, I got a little glimmer. My Gift is returning home, which means a drive up into the mountains, where it is currently snowing. Of course it makes me nervous — she learned to drive here in the desert, so snow is a challenging project, and the mountain roads rather treacherous. As I practiced, I kept having pictures of snow in my mind, and memories about driving in snow, and about low visibility and skidding, and just all the snowy car-related things I could imagine. It is easy for my mind to be her mind.

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16 Responses

  1. I am SO glad you liked the ARTISAN bread and that there were no Pyrex-related injuries! I made a loaf this morning from the dough I made last week. It looks really good — I’m saving it for dinner. My next batch is going to be the European peasant-style bread.

    I found out that my oven runs 50 degrees too hot! OMG!

  2. Mine is accurate, but the bell that goes off when it has supposedly reached temperature is off by a mile. It rang yesterday at 350, when I needed it preheated to 450. The oven thermometer I got was a good investment.

    I’m going to try the semolina bread next. Mmmmmm.

  3. Sorry to hear about your Pyrex explosion. Good for your for persevering though. I bought the same Artisan Bread book as a gift to myself when I was having a really hard day last week – I was literally hugging the bag on the subway, I was so excited. I’ve baked a lot of regular kneaded French bread, but my first ‘no knead’ artisan loaf is in the oven as I write this (on the brand new baking stone I ransomed from Williams Sonoma this morning). Squee!!

  4. yipes! exploding pyrex! that is really good to know! another thing you can do for the humidity is toss some ice cubes in the bottom of the oven. that is what i do when i want a really crusty bread. i am going to have to try that book. i love making bread but it is such a pruction. this book sounds like it simplifies things.

  5. The book TOTALLY simplifies things! No pruction whatsoever. 😉

    So seriously just throw ice cubes in there? Just once at the beginning, or do you have to keep adding as they steam away?

    Kai, let us know how it turns out for you. I think this method is absolutely foolproof and easy and delicious. Just the kind of recipe I like!

  6. hi karen
    that site with the pyrex scoop is informative. at my family gathering a year ago, a trusty pyrex broke apart, and it was an original, not one of the ones made with different materials as mentioned in the site you linked to. the explanation for our breakage was more along the lines of heating and cooling a glass item, rather than what the glass was made of.
    cheers, arturo

  7. the cop makes me laugh. i just got this book and made my dough. arturo warned me about the pyrex incident. i’ll be making some ARTISAN bread soon.

  8. der, production! i am typing on husbands laptop which makes me even more challenged than usual! yes, you might need to add more cubes..i don’t remember because it has been an awfully long time since i have done it! i used to work in a bakery and the oven had an internal steaming thing that you would use intermittantly. so the steam wasn’t on all the time.

  9. I’ll try the cubes tonight. When I had the Pyrex explosion, it was a huge steam-fest. The crust on the bread ROCKED! I am interested to try different steam methods, though, to see how much you can control the crust. Food science is actually pretty interesting…

  10. Pyrex can even explode if you try to take it out of the oven with a damp oven mitt or dishtowel.

  11. Went back and listened to Joni Mitchell yesterday, because yes the poppy stuff annoys me and I wanted to see if listening to something like jazz in there could make it better. I don’t know. I almost don’t care when I start to notice her words. And we’ll laugh and toast to nothing and smash our empty glasses down…

  12. How do you like that Herbie Hancock album? I haven’t heard it but I’ve been meaning to pick it up, he’s one of my favorites. Everyone has this artisan bread book, I think I may need to pick a copy up and bake some for BF! He’s such a bread-fiend. And The Cop reminds me so much of the BF. Whenever you write about something he says, I always show it to BF and he cracks up.

  13. I love the HH album! And I love the bread book. That and “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World” are the two cookbooks I keep right on the kitchen counter.

    And yes, The Cop seems to represent men-in-general. 😉

  14. Mmmmm, vegan cupcakes. I’ll look for that!

    At least you can get The Cop to practice yoga. I’m still working on BF…..he promised he would try it when we go to LA because my teacher there ‘is hot’. Very nice…..

  15. He decided on his own, actually. I never tried to sell the idea. I think he prefers it that way. I really believe that people either have that karma (to practice) or they don’t…

  16. Oh, I love the vegan cupcake book too!!! Cupcakes and bread! The perfect meal 😉

    Thanks for your comment on my blog –if I do find myself in Phoenix with time to practice, I will certainly be in touch! My folks live about a 2.5 hour drive from there so usually I just land, get my rental car, and go.

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