The girls and I reminisce occasionally about our days hawking bread at the Seward Farmer’s Market. One of our best sellers was focaccia bread, which I made in several different varieties. It was fun, for a time, to be famous for something. *cough* No biggie. Big fish, little puddle, you know. The badge of prestige at our little market was to have a line of folks waiting to purchase your wares. If people wanted what you were selling enough to stand in line . . . wellllll you knew you had something good. Because these were small town people, you understand.
Perhaps you didn’t know this about small town folks, if you are not one: we don’t stand in lines. It’s true. We consider it an affront, as a matter of fact, to be expected to do so.
There are–it’s a fact–downsides to living in a small town. For example: you have to get into your car and drive someplace to do almost all of your shopping, or resort to online purchases. Everybody knows your business. There’s a scarcity of choices. You generally can’t get away with anything: if you do something stupid, people will remind you of it until the day you die. (Deathbed scene: “haha Amy, Rest in Peace but remember that time you dug up that rose bush that didn’t belong to you–??”) In a small town like ours, you might only have three choices in dining out–Subway, the pizza place, and DQ. Nearly everything closes at 5:00. There’s no movie theatre. Most of these things don’t matter a bit, because the perks to small town life far outweigh the negatives, and one of the best? You rarely have to stand in line.
Hey. It’s something.
This very morning, in fact, I needed to purchase a few things and went to our small town Walmart. I love it there. It’s small enough to allow me to grab what I need quickly, without a three-mile walk to get there (not, of course, that I couldn’t use the exercise *cough* but some days you’re just not up for the walk, right?) There are choices, but just enough of them. People know me there. Everybody is pleasant. They greet me by name. (Truth: my sister’s name, Anne, at least 50% of the time. But at least they do, in fact, greet me by name. “Hi Anne!”)
There are at least a dozen check-out counters there, and on this day–who knows why?–there were only two weary clerks working up in the front of the store. I couldn’t believe it. I was astonished. There was actually . . . (cue thunder clap) . . . a line. The store also seemed unnaturally quiet. Weird.
I looked around madly . . . I didn’t really want to make a scene . . . but who would come? Wouldn’t somebody help? I had places to go (home) and things to do (finish school with Mack). STANDING IN LINE WAS CLEARLY NOT GONNA HAPPEN FOR ME TO-DAY.
A man about my age–youngish–stood directly ahead of me in the line. He was looking around also, his eyes bulging, his mien disoriented at this disturbing line issue. He met my gaze, raised his eyebrows at me, grinned awkwardly, and tipped his head toward a nearby clerk. (It would have been rude to point, of course.) Her mouth set into an angry line, she was taking especial care to disinfect her conveyor belt and then plonk down her “CLOSED” sign with an irritated huff. Something was going on. Something the boggle-eyed man and I weren’t a part of.
The youngish man and I stared at each other for several moments in bewilderment, beads of sweat pooling in our forehead wrinkles, as the line in front of us inched forward very slowly. In front of the awkwardly grinning (and now, sweating) man was a woman with at least thirteen children, an unhappy baby, and two cartloads of groceries. Very small items–like cans of tomato paste and individual packages of chewing gum–made up the bulk of her purchases, it seemed. Gosh.
I felt my shoulders sag and several new deep wrinkles form between my eyebrows. Blast. I hate it when that happens.
I reached up and rubbed my forehead and started backing up, preparing to go put my few items back (and not where they belonged, either!) rather than stand in that line another instant! And then. Saved. A stern-faced young clerk silently strode forward, took away the CLOSED sign with a grumpy flourish, and motioned me forward to the freshly-washed belt. Something had happened. Something I still wasn’t a part of. And clearly she wasn’t happy about it, but she was going to step up and do her part. God bless her. She was a small town person, obviously, and took pity on those of us discomfited by the line concept.
So back to the farmer’s market, the focaccia bread, and the line in front of our tables. That’s where we started, right? The one that stretched all the way to the corner–usually made up of fifteen to twenty patient small town ladies and an occasional gentleman or two. That line struck us with pride and horror at the same time. Being small town people ourselves, we felt horribly awkward at making people wait for ten or eleven minutes to buy our breads, muffins, and (mostly) Mom’s fabulous donuts. But on the other hand . . . these small town people thought our products worth waiting for and that was a satisfying thing. Conflicting . . . but satisfying.
(By the way: a commercial–I wrote an ebook full of pictures, recipes, and an hour-by-hour schedule of how I was able to make 80+ loaves of bread in one day AND be over at farmer’s market by 3:00 to sell it all, too. The dishes? Wall, no, probably I didn’t get them all done before I left, grasshopper. If you’re interested in learning more, you can click on the link in the margin to purchase that ebook.)
This focaccia bread was easily one of the simplest and yet most satisfying things that I made for farmer’s market. I can confide in you, can I not? I still make it, especially when I’m in the mood for a really great sandwich like this one. I love using fresh rosemary when I’ve got it, but dried rosemary is very good, too. It’s made out of a lovely olive oil-based dough, and it’s great hot or cold. Or warm. It’s excellent to serve with a big main dish salad, accompanied by a small bowl of olive oil for dipping, and a medium celebratory glass of wine. (Bryan: “Wine? What’s the occasion? Me: We made it through another Monday, hooray!” *clink*).
Gosh. Now I’m really hankering for some. Focaccia bread, not wine. (hehe-maybe)
I can admit to you, dear gentle reader–that there were times I felt just a smidgen of guilt about our rock star status. Why? Because the bread that I was making was so easy to make, a monkey could do it. A literal monkey. A literal not-very-bright monkey at that. A monkey dullard, if you will. Of course I had a bucket load of experience, plenty of failures, and hours and hours of learning from the Scrappy Culinary School of Hard Knocks (that SCSOHK), but the truth was: anybody can make this bread. Especially with your friend (me) to guide you through the process.
You can make this bread this very day, even if you’re not a slow-witted monkey (and I’m guessing that you are not) and you can be a rock star in your own home or community, if you wish it. All you need are these few ingredients: salt, yeast, olive oil, flour, warm water, rosemary, and a round cake pan or two. Who knows? Maybe someday soon there’ll be lines forming to get a chunk of your warm homemade focaccia bread.
Yes. It’s kinda fun, after all, to be a rock star, even if you do reside in a small place where standing in line is anathema.
Here’s how to get there. 🙂
- 3¼ cups warm water
- 1 Tb kosher salt
- 1-1.5 Tb yeast
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 6½ cups unbleached flour
- rosemary--2 Tb fresh, 2 tsp dried
- Make dough--mix together water, salt, yeast, and olive oil in bucket or large bowl. (I use a large ice cream bucket, that holds a gallon and a pint.) Stir in flours until well incorporated, then let rise for about 2 hours or until the dough reaches the top of the bucket. Don't punch down. Refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight. (This dough can be used immediately after the rise, but will be easier to handle after some refrigeration.)
- On baking day: prepare an 8" round cake pan by pouring a couple Tbs of olive oil into the pan and smearing it around. (This recipe will make four focaccias this size, but for simplicity, I'll write this recipe for one.) Add a handful of rosemary to the bottom of the pan.
- Take a chunk of dough about the size of a large grapefruit and roll (or pat) to a size to fit your pan. Put in pan, drizzle and brush with olive oil, grind pepper and salt, and sprinkle with rosemary.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Let focaccia rise about 30 minutes, then poke with your fingertips, and slide into the oven. After 15 minutes of baking, change position in oven to get an even bake. Let bake 5 more minutes, or until golden brown top and bottom. Best eaten hot!
- Wait for a line to form!!
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