My Favorite Cookbook

There’s something about bread. Some people yearn for a good steak, some lust for chocolate. For me, it’s bread – that magical combination of flour, water, salt, and yeast. A corner dive with that serves pizza with a great crust will have me as a friend for life, while a 5-Star Italian place will lose me forever if the bread basked is only mediocre.

Growing up, I lived in two small towns; both with large ethnic European populations. First and second generation ‘off the boat’. We had good bakeries. We had great bread. Even the grocery store bakeries managed to turn out a decent loaf.

As an adult I found myself settled down in a small city smack dab in the middle of the Great Bread Desert. Here, bread is an afterthought. Not a passion. So I learned to bake.

One Christmas, my wife gave me “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart. And it immediately earned a prominent spot among my favorite cookbooks – the go-to ones, the small assortment kept in the kitchen for easy access.

A perfect combination of textbook, recipe book, and coffee table book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice addresses the art and science of bread making accessibly, enjoyably, and thoroughly. The first third is all classroom. History, chemistry, biology, mechanics, methods, tools. Don’t skip these parts. You need them. You’ll enjoy them. Trust me.

From there on it’s all action. 180 pages of recipes. “Formulas.” Bagels, Ciabatta, Pizza dough, Cinnamon Rolls, Sourdough, Challah, Focaccia. OMG, the Focaccia.

The formulas are easy to understand and come with helpful tips and commentary. Ingredients are listed by both weight and measure. Each recipe comes with tips, commentary, and photos that will make you want to get busy baking.

Armed with The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, good ingredients, and a basic set of tools you will be turning out professional quality breads in no time at all. Impress yourself, impress your friends, eat well, enjoy the journey. The Bread Baker’s Apprentice is a Good Read.

The Search for a Used Sailboat – Part 1

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been bitten rather hard by the sailing bug.  After the lessons at Jolly Roger Sailing Club I started crewing on a couple of boats for various club races and, well, the downward spiral into addiction has only picked up speed. After mounting a sustained campaign of reasoning, arguing, cajoling, and begging; the other two Jays have finally given into the fact that I will not be deterred. And I am now in the market for a sailboat. A used sailboat. An “older” used sailboat.

The good news is that most production boats made from the early 1970’s on are made of fiberglass which, if properly cared for, will last nearly forever. There are plenty of 30 and 40 year old boats out there with many years of life left in them at prices that make ownership affordable for about anyone. The bad news is that there are plenty of 30 and 40 year old boats out there with major problems and telling the good from the bad isn’t as easy as you might think. It is important to arm yourself with both allies and knowledge in the search for that perfect boat.

The best move I made was to join a boat club. Sailors are known for being passionate about their sport and generous in their support for each other and for newcomers. For me, the friends I made through Jolly Roger Sailing Club have been my biggest asset. Find a club, get active, make some friends, do some sailing. You won’t be sorry.

The second best move I made was to pick up a copy of a great book by Don Casey called Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual.  If you are in the market for an older sailboat, already own a classic, or just enjoy nerding it up with a little light reading on how to maintain a marine diesel engine; this not-so-little gem deserves a spot on your bookshelf. A compilation of six separate books, Don Casey’s Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual covers all aspects of inspecting, maintaining, and repairing sailboats.

Don’s book goes into great detail on what to look for when assessing a used boat – from how to remove your rose colored glasses to a succinct “Boat-Buyer’s 30-Minute Survey” that provides a method to quickly weed out junk boats and identify solid candidates that merit a more in-depth assessment. For current boat owners, this book is a one stop shop for troubleshooting and making repairs on all major boat systems.

My search for the perfect boat goes on. With the help of experienced sailor friends and the knowledge gleaned from Don’s book I go into the process much more confident and well equipped to find my great old boat.