Monday, December 30, 2013

Bread Eaten in Secret is Pleasant

You've heard of “death by chocolate”? Well, I think my wife is trying to kill me with another tasty food: Homemade breads. Not the type that come out of a bread machine. Rather, crusty manna she makes from scratch. Last night it was puffy popovers like the ones you get at BLT Steak. Smothered in butter. Yum.

Those who know me and Gilda might be slightly confused. Weren't we, after all, practitioners, acolytes and advocates of the Atkins diet, the regimen that proscribes carbohydrate-laden foods like bread and pasta? True. 

Back in 1998, during our first trip to Prague, I thought Gilda was trying to kill me by suggesting I swear off bread and pastries in favor of eggs, bacon, sausage and as many other meats and proteins as I like. Carbs, she told me, just made me hungry for snacks during the day that my body would convert to sugar. A protein-packed diet would not encourage frequent stops at bakeries. Moreover, the Atkins diet would help reduce and control my cholesterol and triglycerides (don’t ask for the science behind this. It’s like a minus times a minus equals a plus.)

The first breakfast in Prague was anxiety-filled. I had not eaten a breakfast egg for several years. But there I was loading my plate with scrambled eggs, a couple of pieces of bacon and sausage and more than a little bit of wonder, wondering whether Gilda was trying to kill me. 

Some people lose wait with the Atkins diet. I didn’t have to, so I modified it by eating at least one starch, such as potatoes, with one meal. Sure enough, my weight maintained, my blood test numbers improved. But I really missed bread. So did Gilda, who also followed the Atkins diet.

A couple of years ago we started to loosen up. We’d look forward to eating bread when dining out. Gilda wanted to consume less meat, so we added more pasta dinners at home. I retrieved the bread machine we had given to Dan and Allison, but soon lost interest in making bread. Instead, once a week I was bringing home a loaf from Whole Foods for salmon and tuna fish salads.

A few weeks ago Gilda, who despite becoming a fantastic cook never considered herself an expert baker, decided to try her hand at bread. She began with a recipe for no-knead bread. It emerged from a Dutch oven a perfect circle, in the words of Mark Bittman of The New York Times, “to nearly duplicate an artisan bakery loaf, with a crackling crust, open-holed crumb, light texture, and fantastic flavor.” The bread equaled if not surpassed breads served in the best restaurants (here’s a link to the recipe—

Tonight Gilda said next week she will try baking biscuits. Is there no end to her devilish plan? And yet, as is written in the Book of Job, “Bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”