The best breakfast ever!
I believe I was 7 years old when I first crossed the Atlantic and ventured into a new reality. It was illuminating!
I’ve always considered myself an adventurer. I remember how thrilling it was to go beyond the demarcated zone my parents had decided on once I learned how to ride a bike. Disobedience may have added to the thrill, yet it was my desire to see what I may be missing was the underlying force.
It could have been the fact that I grew up during a novel time of exploration, further reaching than any other time in history, “Space, the final frontier”. This impulse to explore might have also been inspired by the men I learned about in school, such as, Magellan, Columbus, Marco Polo, Leif Ericsson, Lewis and Clark, Thor Heyerdahl, or Sir Edmund Hillary. Ultimately I believe I was born with this hunger to seek out the unknown because when I embarked on my first journey it was before I had ever heard of these men. In addition, I never thought about the negative factors involved in such endeavors, only the possibilities.
My father and I were to make this trip alone. I was told years later that I was fearless in my conviction to go.
It was my first flight. Securely strapped in the belly of this colossal metal bird, I felt myself being pushed back into the cushion of the chair as the engines began to roar and the jet began to move. Quaking, and rumbling down the runway it struggled to break free from the ground that supported it. Reaching the proper speed, it lifted off and we were flying! The feeling of weightlessness and knowing we were airborne was overwhelming. I was exhilarated by the gentle feeling of floating above the planet, just like an astronaut; it was amazing!
As we climbed higher into the sky, everything became smaller and smaller until my understanding of home expanded exponentially. This new perspective was a lesson in relativity and the acknowledgement that nothing is finite.
As we broke through the clouds and the jet eased into it’s designated flight path, I gazed out the small window and found myself looking at billowing mountain ranges. The unnamed range glowed, tinted with values of red, yellow and orange, by the light of the setting sun.
Two flights and an extremely long and precarious ride through the mountains of Sicily we arrived in Scoglitti. There, we were greeted by what seemed to be the entire town screaming, “The Americans are here, it’s the Americans”. I would have thought it was a dream, but having the 8 mm film of the event confirmed the event.
I could go on about my experiences there, but there are so many, and I really just want to focus on one in particular, breakfast.
Being an American then was like being from a different planet. America was still the “promised land” where the streets were paved in gold and everything and anything was possible. Although this was far from the truth, we were the “haves” and they were the “have nots”. We had running water, a reliable electrical network, and a supermarket filled with a variety of goods. Being from the lower middle class, we were truly blessed in comparison.
During that time in Sicily water needed to be stored in the bathtub and was just used for cleaning and cooking. You needed to buy water for drinking. Electricity was on one-minute and out the next. Although there was enough to eat, it was expensive, not as varied, and not as accessible to what we were accustomed to. Even though I was seven years old, I knew that life was much different and harder here. What surprised me, was how happy everyone was. This was their norm. They lived with it and dealt with the shortcomings. Life here did not revolve around things. Family and friends were the priority. This solidarity allowed them to overcome most hardships.
The breakfast I am about to share with to you, in a sense, embodies this reality. Simple, yet filled with hope, joy and love. I say this because the color of the fruit it is made from radiates like the sun. And with each new day, the rising sun fills us with hope. We long for its warmth and brightness. The flavor evokes joy. And the total experience of eating it fills us with love.
My first reaction to this meal was of total shock. I could not believe that someone placed a bowl of lemon ice and a soft roll in front of me and said eat your breakfast!
It was incomprehensible. This was breakfast?
I watched as my father smiled at my reaction and proceeded to break the bread and use it like a spoon to scoop up the melting ice. I watched him take a bite. His expression revealed his inner child. Transporting him back to a more innocent time and place, his childhood. It was this that inadvertently brought us closer. We were two kids enjoying a shared experience through food.
Following his lead, I took my first bite. I will never forget the sensations that ran through me. It was transcending. The sweet, cold, lemon soaked bread unleashed its power through my pallet and spread throughout my body. My whole being was awakened. It was as if every “feel good” hormone that my body could create was released at once. I can’t explain it any other way. What better way to start the day?
The simplest things in life often are the most surprising if not the most fulfilling. Below is a recipe for you to try at home. Odd as it may seem, the Japanese bread recipe is similar to the taste and texture of the bread they served in Sicily. Although it will never be the same as eating it outside a small café in Scoglitti with someone you love, I’m sure you will enjoy it just the same! Especially if you share it with someone you care about. Remember, life is as sweet as you make it.
2 cups Water
11/4 cups Sugar
3/4 cups Lemon Juice
Zest of 3 lemons
Bring water and sugar to a boil. Cook for 1 minute. Cool to room temperature.
Add lemon juice and zest and refrigerate overnight.
Process in an ice cream machine and serve immediately or freeze to use at a later time.
Japanese Milk Bread
Adapted from the The Inn at Ormsby Hill
For the tangzhong (sponge)
1/3 cup flour
1 cup milk
Whisk together the flour and milk in a small saucepan over medium low heat until the mixture starts to become paste-like. Don’t let it boil or it will get too thick.
Cool to room temperature.
For the dough:
1 cup warm milk
4 teaspoons dry yeast
4 tablespoons sugar
5 1/2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons dry milk powder
3 large eggs (one is for the egg wash)
4 tablespoons butter at room temperature
In a bowl, combine the warm milk, yeast, sugar, 2 eggs and tangzhong.
In another bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and powdered milk.
In a mixing bowl fitted with a dough hook, kneed the dough for 5 minutes.
Place the dough in a large bowl that has been lightly oiled, cover, and move to a warm spot in your kitchen.
Let the dough ferment for 45 minutes, or until it has doubled in size.
Once the dough has risen, shape the dough into two large loaves or 8 mini loaves and place them in prepared baking pans.
Let it rise for another 45 minutes
Beat the remaining egg and a little water with a fork. Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg wash and bake in a pre-heated oven at 350° F for 25 to 30 minutes