A big cockroach crawls across the kitchen floor. Its rust-colored body leaving black pods behind him, leaving microscopic imprints on the newly laid linoleum, an anniversary gift from Paul. Elizabeth puts her hand on her hip and sighs, takes one full swig of her wine, pulls out the broom from behind the trash can and swats, once, twice, until the roach dissembles into a half dozen bloody pieces on the floor.
Don't get near that, Elizabeth shouts as Nora crawls close to the antennas, the still living head. She throws the broom to the floor and pulls Nora up in one quick swoop, determined to keep her daughter from this spineless creature for as long as she can. Nora grabs Elizabeth at the breast, her eyes fixed on the movement, the way the legs still twitch, the head still turns, the antennas sense that death is approaching.
One less roach. Elizabeth asks herself if she has enough food for the two of them. Opening the refrigerator, she pulls out a carton of milk which she sniffs while biting her lip, one more day will be fine. And of course, there is always another box of cereal in the pantry. Her father bringing her enough cereal to feed both her and Nora a dozen times over. Its a perk, he says whenever he knocks on the door, his Post cereal shirt wrinkled collar to hem.
Three layers of paper towel provide enough distance for Elizabeth to clean up the remains, the crackles she created with just her arm and that plastic broom. If only, she thinks, and squirts the mint-green bloodied tile with disinfectant. She squirts until chemicals and roach blood form a murky puddle on her floor. Nora plays down here too much, she thinks, and shakes her head, pushes her curls behind her ears before bending down and hand and knee and swiping back and forth until it's all absorbed.
The two of them sit at the toddler-sized table that occupies what once was a dining room, a chandelier still hanging above. Nora swats at her plastic bowl with her plastic spoon, sending milk and cereal across the table and the carpeted floor. Elizabeth sighs, grabs a sponge and cleans, her daughter laughing now, the both of them hungry but the both of them happy with their overflowing bowls. Nora looks at her mother and feels her lids begin to close, her stomach asking for more but her body sinking deep into toddler sleep. Enough, Elizabeth finally says and swings Nora in her arms again, the two of them walking back to the bedroom, knowing that night has finally come.
Many of you have tried Monkey Bread before (at least I hope you have!) Normally this dessert is composed of balls of dough dipped in butter and rolled in cinnamon sugar. The entire collection is then placed in a tube pan, baked, and turned out on a plate, allowing friends and family to pick off bite after sticky bite. Yes, it is even more delicious than it sounds.
But for those of us who are hosting dinner and want to serve an impressive bread along with pasta or a salad, I would encourage you to turn to this simple adaptation of the classic. I began by subbing whole wheat flour for a portion of the white flour. I then turned to olive oil instead of butter, using a fragrant mix of Italian herbs instead of cinnamon and sugar. These balls were then baked in a 9 inch cake pan, allowing both the tops and the bottoms to turn a lovely golden brown.
We were in heaven.
I don't know if we enjoyed anything on our table as much as this bread. Even now, as we both work, we can't stop ourselves, the bread is just too good to turn down. I adapted this recipe from the King Arthur Baking Companion cookbook, and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
1 cup (8 ounces) milk or water
2 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (4 ounces) whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) olive oil
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 clove garlic, minced
1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients, stirring till the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. Using a stand mixer with the dough attachment, knead dough for 5-8 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover and allow to rise for one hour, or until doubled in bulk.
2. While the dough's rises, make your coating. Heat the oil in a small frying pan, and sauté the herbs and garlic for a minute or two. Be careful to not brown/burn the garlic. Set the oil and herbs aside.
3. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 inch cake pan. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and divide it into 32 small pieces. Roll into small balls and place into your pan. Brush the balls with the herb coating, pouring any remaining oil on top.
4. Allow the bread to rise, covered, for 1 hour. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove pan from the oven, and turn out onto a serving platter. Serve warm.
Anecdotes and Apple Cores