There are too many varieties of music in the world to count, and everybody has an musical opinion of some sort, even if it is “Meh”. I’ve recently begun to listen to music just about all the time I’m working on something. It wasn’t until this morning that I really noticed that I have different types of music for different activities. I really like to share music with others, so I thought I’d list some working music that I have been enjoying lately.
There’s Classical (preferably either very early or very late 19th century) for light gardening. The soft tinkle of John Field’s piano nocturnes or the swift and passionate key changes of Ralph Vaughn Williams allow me to drift into another place where sore backs and sunburnt shoulders don’t exist.
Then there is indie folk for farm work like hauling and digging and mucking: modern sounds that allude to bluegrass and blues roots like Iron and Wine or Black Prairie.
For very early morning baking of sweets and cakes there is always jazzy Nina Simone, and as I get into the swing of things I get a little more modern with Feist or Kimbra, but it’s always somebody with a bit of jazz/blues influence.
Then today I realized that when I bake bread there is an entirely different palate of music that I seek out that differs from when I’m baking sweets. Alan Lomax.
Mr. Lomax spent much of his life traveling and collecting folk music from around the world. I really love his depression era recordings from the deep south – things like Texas Gladden. Woo can that woman hit a grace note! When I listen to the rustic recordings of reedy voices belting out Appalachian ballads I can’t help but be whisked back to childhood when every July we would head over to the west side of Michigan to celebrate my mom’s and aunt’s birthdays. I remember watching my uncle move assuredly around his kitchen in almost a dance to the same recordings, or at least something similar. One of his staples was anadama bread, a sweet and dark molasses bread that originated in New England. According to legend, and wikipedia, “A fisherman, angry with his wife, Anna, for serving him nothing but cornmeal and molasses, one day adds flour and yeastto his porridge and eats the resultant bread, while cursing, “Anna, damn her.” The neighbors baked it because it was so delicious and coined it Anadama or Anadamy.”
There are a number of recipes around on the internet, and this one only slightly resembles the one my uncle uses. I made this back in college when craving anadama – I found it on the New York Times’ website:
1/2 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
6 tablespoons butter, softened, more for greasing bowl
1 1/4-ounce package active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Oil for greasing.
1. In a bowl, stir together the cornmeal and 1 cup water. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring another cup of water to a boil. Add cornmeal mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is very thick, about 10 minutes. Stir in the molasses and 2 tablespoons butter. Transfer mixture to bowl of an electric mixer and cool to tepid.
2. In a small bowl, stir together the yeast and 1/2 cup water until yeast has dissolved. Add to cornmeal and mix on low speed with dough-hook attachment for several seconds. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time, mixing for several seconds after each addition. Sprinkle in the salt and nutmeg, and continue mixing until dough completely comes away from sides of bowl, about 7 minutes.
3. Lightly butter a bowl. Form dough into a ball and place it in bowl. Oil a sheet of plastic wrap and loosely cover dough. Allow dough to rise for 1 1/2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
4. Lightly grease 2 9-by-4-inch loaf pans. Press down dough and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Shape each piece loosely into a loaf and place each in a pan. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until loaves have doubled.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaves for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until bread is a dark golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
6. Allow bread to cool in pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire cooling rack. Brush all over with remaining softened butter. Serve warm if possible.
Yield: 2 9-by-4-inch loaves.
Edit: I managed to contact my Uncle last night and he informed me that his recipe comes from the Bentley Farm Cookbook. I’ve never been one for posting published recipes but I found someone else who shared it online so if you’re interested in a much darker molasses loaf, try this recipe! Anna Damn Her Bread
Do you have music that you associate with certain tasks? Why do you associate them?