Empty Nests, Friendship, and Bread

With the start of the new year, our younger daughter moved into her first post-college apartment. I suppose I am now officially an “empty nester,” although I dislike the term. I understand the analogy of the fledgling leaving the nest, but guess what? The nest is not empty—my husband and I are still here! Everyone understands what the term means, but it is a cliché.  I will miss having our daughter living here. Yes, she is and will always be my “baby.” I love and adore both my girls. I will miss our fun TV-watching nights when we would chat about friends and catch up—often while eating a special dessert. My husband will miss having her in the car with him on the ride back and forth from work. BUT, just as her sister was, our younger daughter is eager to move on with her “grown up” life. She is happy and in love—and how can I not be happy for her? 

Neither daughter is now living at home, but they are still in our lives. They will always be my daughters, and I will always be their mother. They are wonderful, talented, kind, smart young women. It is ok to miss their presence in the house. But I am not devastated, I am happy for them, and feel lucky and grateful to have them in my life.  Some of my friends no longer have their children. That is devastation. We will still see both of our daughters; we communicate regularly by text and phone. We can SKYPE or do Facetime. It is the end of a stage in all of our lives, but it is also the start of a new one.

On New Year’s Day, not knowing when our daughter or her boyfriend were going to arrive at our house before their move the next day, I decided to bake some bread and make a pot of soup. That way, the food would be ready at any time, for whoever wanted it. I decided to make a curried red lentil soup—the golden color symbolizing prosperity in the new year—and the touch of sweetness and the spice added further symbolism, while the touch of coconut milk gave it a bit of creaminess that was perfect for the cold, winter day.

I decided to make Honey Wheat Berry Bread. It’s our daughter’s favorite, and I made one loaf for her and one loaf to have with dinner. The recipe comes from Anna Thomas’s The Vegetarian Epicure (1972). When I was in high school, a friend—my then boyfriend, now husband’s best friend—gave me this book because he knew I liked to cook. As far as I can recall, it was simply a random present, and I realize now, how kind and thoughtful that was. The book is now tattered and falling apart.

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I am fairly certain that the wheat berry bread recipe was the first recipe I made from the book, and that I then presented the friend with a loaf.  In those days, it was an adventure trying to find wheat berries. It usually meant a trip to a “health food” store. Now I can find them at my local grocery store. When I made the bread on New Year’s Day, I was inspired by another blogger (check out Shanna Koenigsdorf Wards’  recipe for Spiced Fig and Apple Bread on her blog Curl and Carrots) to add fruit to one loaf, leaving the other loaf plain for my daughter to take to her new apartment. After kneading in the cooked wheat berries to entire amount of dough, I divided the dough into two portions, and added dried cranberries, golden raisins, and about ¼ cup of finely ground walnuts to one loaf. I have to say, it was scrumptious, and delicious with goat cheese! But this bread is even good eaten dry.

So my history with this bread began with an old friendship, received inspiration from a new blogger acquaintance, and became a new home gift from mother to child. I think I will have to rename it New Year Friendship Bread. And I will have to look up the old friend’s phone number and give him a call!

So ring out the old and ring in the new. Let’s see what 2014 has in store for all of us–hopefully, good friends, time with cherished family members, and lots of good bread!

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Honey Wheat Berry Bread (aka New Year Friendship Bread)

Adapted from The Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas

½ cup dry wheat berries

1 2/3 cups milk (it works with almond or soymilk )

1 Tbsp. (1 package ) yeast

1/3 cup honey

2 Tbsp. butter

2 tsp. salt

5 ½ -6 ½ cups whole wheat flour

½ toasted wheat germ

Dried fruit and nuts as desired

Simmer wheat berries in 2 cups water for about 2 ½ to 3 hours, or until the wheat berries are tender. Add water as needed. Wheat berries can be cooked ahead of time and stored in a container in the refrigerator for a couple days.

         The recipe says to scald the milk and then let it cool to room temperature. I think it’s fine to simply warm the milk. Make certain it is not too hot before adding it to the yeast. Dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup warm water. Add the milk, honey, butter, and salt. Stir in about 4 cups of flour, and mix until smooth. Add more flour and the wheat germ. Knead the dough and place in a greased bowl to rise for about 1 ½ hours until doubled. Punch down, and knead in the cooked wheat berries—and fruit, if using.

         Divide the dough into two parts, form into loaves, and place in greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise for about 45 minutes. Bake in preheated over at 375° for about 45 minutes. Try not to eat an entire loaf by yourself in one sitting.

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6 thoughts on “Empty Nests, Friendship, and Bread

  1. I found this entry to be happy! It sounds like you raised two smart, amazing daughters who love you deeply – and love to visit you. I hope my kids visit me when they fly from the nest. And, what better way to welcome them than with delicious homemade soup and bread (and a loaf for the new apt.!) Hopefully you had some special dessert and movie-watching before they left to go to their “other” homes. 🙂 PS Thank you for the very kind mention, Merril.

  2. Thank you for your sweet comments, Shanna. I am certain your children will visit you when they have left home–and they’ll receive lots of your scrumptious food when they visit! No special dessert or movies on New Year’s, but my older daughter, her fiancee, and I had brownies and tea, while we watched Downton Abbey yesterday afternoon. 🙂

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