principles found in an oddly shaped black hat

Great ambition is the passion of a great character.
Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts.
All depends on the principles which direct th
em.
Napoleon Bonaparte


(one of only a handful of Napoleon’s hats that remains / Le Proccope Restrauant /
Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

Well, after a week of here and there babysitting, I’ve finally, however painfully
and reluctantly, returned The Mayor back home to Atlanta.
She was returned home in one piece albeit with her nagging cold still intact.

And so slowly I am now literally picking up the pieces while working on regaining
my thinking brain.

So on Saturday our local news offered the latest breaking state news that has me more
than simply thinking…

But before I get to that story, let me offer up a tiny precursor…
a tiny tale that reminds me of this particular current news situation of ours.

The hat in the image above is but one of a handful of the remaining famous bicorne hats
worn by France’s most famous leader, Napoleon Bonaparte (Marie Antoinette aside).
The last known hat of only 19 that remain, went to auction earlier this year.
It was a hat that was supposedly recovered from the battlefield at Waterloo and
fetched a whopping $325,000 at auction.

History offers us the small tidbit that, whereas most military leaders of the day
wore their hats with points facing forward and back, Napoleon,
on the other hand, preferred wearing his hats sideways.
This allowed Napoleon to be readily identified when on the battlefield.
A rather bold stance given the fact that many military leaders preferred blending in so
as not to be easily “picked off” by the enemy…
because what’s an army without its leader?

But given Napoleon’s ego, it is no surprise that he would prefer to be noticed
rather than not.

And I must confess, I have always had an affinity for France’s most famous,
or perhaps more accurately, infamous little general…
And so since I’ve previously written about that attraction before it should come as no
surprise of the level of excitement I experienced when recently given the opportunity
of seeing one of his earliest bicorne hats up close and personal.

On our recent visit to Paris, we opted to enjoy an evening’s meal at Le Procope, Paris’
oldest consecutively operating restaurant.
Le Procope has been serving discerning pallets since 1686.
They also boast having one of the most synonymous items associated with one of Paris’
most well-known individuals.
One of Napoleon’s earliest bicorne hats.

The story goes that Napoleon would often frequent Le Procope.
But so did Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Rousseau, Robespierre, Marat,
and George Sand to name just a few
But the story goes that as a young soldier, Napoleon would come to eat and in typical
fashion, brood night after night…running up quite the tab.

As payment for his escalating bill, Napoleon paid with what he had…that being his hat.
He informed the proprietors that one day his hat would be world famous because he would,
in turn, become famous.
And obviously, the proprietor took him at his word and accepted the hat.

And so now the oldest restaurant in Paris boasts owning one of the earliest hats
worn by what many consider to be France’s greatest and most brilliant tacticians and
military leaders.

Well, that is how they feel now as we all know that France has had an up and down,
love-hate relationship with her dearest yet height challenged leader.

I say all of this because as an up and coming soldier, Napoleon was like any young
soldier, woefully strapped for cash.
Acknowledging that he needed to pay his debt, he did so by giving what he had, his hat…
coupled with the guarantee that the hat would indeed suffice as payment as it would
certainly, cover his expenses given that his future was on track for fame…

And so this not so modest offering has indeed become quite rare and somewhat priceless
while in the end, Napoleon’s guarantee had come to fruition and then some.

A few weeks back I wrote a post about life in ‘the middle’—
as in our nation’s recent proclivity for being pretty much split down the middle given
our voting persuasions.

There are no clear-cut winners anymore because it’s now a matter of an almost equal tug of war
with an opponent’s toe barely crossing the line when suddenly the other opponent, who’s still
pulling, is proclaimed the victor…

So with more near miss victors than ever before…
a wealth of those having won by only a toe’s length or the proverbial skin of the teeth,
the losing side has taken to the ugliness of temper tantrums.

The problem in all of this is the growing numbers of near-miss victors and their equally
determined tug of war partners unwilling to surrender—despite their toe having crossed
the line.

It just seems there are simply no real clear cut winners any more—no full out right bodies
that come flying over the line after being jerked over by the formidable foe—
rather it’s come down to a constant stream of photo finishes.

Take for instance the recent race for Governor here in Georgia.

The numbers told us that the Republican Brian Kemp won.
The numbers were simply not there for his Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams.
Although the numbers were indeed close.

Brian Kemp is a what many consider to be a typical good ol’ boy, Southern politician
while Abrams is a single black woman who was poised to be the first black woman
to hold such a prestigious office here in the deep south…
putting her on the edge for making monumental history.

Lots of unspoken thoughts and opinions are now floating and flying around about both of
these tug of war opponents and their collective sides.

So in typical ‘in the middle’ mindset of this nation…Abrams whose toe was pulled slightly
over the line…obviously over the line…refused to let go of the rope despite
the arms raised of the victor Kemp.

Two weeks have now passed despite Kemp claiming the victory in the wee hours of the vote counting,
as Abrams has now dug in and refused to give up her end of the rope.

Mathematically it has been clear that it would be impossible for her to call for a re-count
let alone a runoff.

So finally yesterday, two weeks after the fact, Abrams emerges to make a statement.
She announces that Kemp will be governer but that she will not concede…
in fact, she will file a lawsuit over Georgia’s voting irregularities…
Irregularities for a state that proudly boasts that its voting practices have been on point
for the past oh so many years.

On the one hand, we have someone admitting their opponent has won the prize while they in turn
refuse to admit that they have lost.
A refusal to concede while skirting around the obvious.
A win and a loss…no tie.

No longer do we as a public witness any level of magnanimity between opponents.
There is no graciousness between opponents let alone between one party to another.
No sense of decorum.
No extending of the hand from the vanquished to the victor noting a race well run…

Rather there is refusal.
There is denial.
There are claims of foul play.
There is the stomping of the tantrum’s foot.

No more is there a “may the best man, or woman, win” mentality.

No longer are there lessons of fair play or the lessons of how to win or lose graciously
being offered for our youth.
No examples of taking the high road.
No living with the numbers…
Rather its a matter of refusing to acknowledge defeat.
No more selflessly throwing one’s support behind the victor in order to work together
for the betterment of “the people”…for the sake of both sides of voters.

This current sort of mentality and poor sportsmanship leaves me, a voter, resentful of the
tantrum makers.
It makes me angry.
I am discovering very quickly that I have no tolerance for obstructionists.
Those who are the stalematers, the momentum breakers, the saboteurs of our own successes.
Those who wish to stop the good of the entire nation for the good of themselves.

And so I think of Napoleon.

But not so much for reasons one would assume.

Yes, he was a man who was small in stature but huge in ego.
A man who even I admit hated the notion of losing.
His was a life of battle and conquest with the ultimate goal being his own rising to the top.

Not the most magnanimous of mindsets.

Humility was not a word ever used to describe Napoleon.
No self-deprecating in his corner of the world.

The question of his true motives and his real concern being either for France and her people or
simply for himself…well…only history can help us pick that apart…

And yet here in this tale of an obscure little black and oddly shaped hat,
we learn of a would be great man acknowledging his being in a bit of a tight spot.

We hear the acknowledgment that even those
with great expectations of self can still recognize and even own up to stumbling
while being, in the end, at somewhat of a loss.

In this case, the loss of enough cash to pay one’s bill.
Living fast, loose and large and not being able to afford to do so.
Just like so many in our society today.

And yet we know Napoleon did not run out on his debt…something he easily could have done.
Yet there was the matter of honor and of principles.
Honor and principles that many of us lack today while preferring to live loose and large…
We assume that someone else, such as the government, should come to the rescue
and excuse or even pay for such wanton living.

But here, an otherwise self-centered egotist owns up to owing…
and pays his bill with the only thing he really owns at the time, he pays with a hat.
A hat along with a promise…
All while a gracious proprietor, who at the time, probably rolled
his eyes as he’d heard his fair share of grandiose dreams from one dreamer too many,
in turn, graciously accepted this pitiful payment none the less.

A simple act of give and take.

As we learn that a truthful acknowledgment, albeit hard truths, actually give way to a glimpse
of humility.
And there must always remain humility if there is to be any sense of hope in our society.

So when even just a hair of that toe crosses the line, admitting we’ve been defeated is not only
the right thing to do, it is the only thing.

Fair and square losses…
losses with no amount of whining, fussing and cussing, challenging, foot stomping
or threats of lawsuits can turn a loss into a win…
and if it could, in the end, would the win by hook and crook be worth the cost of our
humanity?

I worry that our society has lost all hope for the glimmer of her principles, those being
foremost graciousness and humility.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but
each of you to the interests of the others.

Philippians 2:3-4

My Foe verses my Enemy

Who overcomes by force, hath overcome but half his foe.
John Milton

The battlefield is a scene of constant chaos. The winner will be the one who controls that chaos, both his own and the enemies.
Napoleon Bonaparte

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(“the enemy has grown bold in my neglect”—Julie Cook / 2014)

I come to you, lying in a pool of my own sweat, from somewhere on the floor of a cavernous basement.
The cement beneath me is hard, dusty but cool.
Flat on my back I stare bleary eyed at the wooden joists overhead.
“How do those cobwebs get up there and where do they keep coming from. . .”
These odd thoughts swirl through my mushy mind as I will myself to not give in to the overwhelming exhaustion.
I close my eyes.
I prefer not to see what I must clean.

Lungs and limbs alike now burn and ache.
I think I hear the sounds of angels, far off someplace in the great distance, singing.
“Is it help come to save me. . .?”
Oh, yeah, that’s my iPhone.
“Oh Bono, he’s still singing. . .”
“Bless his heart”
“He just won’t give up on me” a pleasant thought as a slight smile comes to my parched lips
The timer beeps.
“Must find water. . .” I hear myself mumble.

Not much has changed since I last met this nemesis, this foe of mine. Was it back in say late June or early July? We had been constant companions, it and I, for better or for worse–since Valentine’s day.
Day in and day out for months–as it promised to help me become the svelte mother of the groom.
We worked together every single day.
It never wavered.
I wanted to throw up.

Yet, my butt actually began to feel as if it could fit comfortably into my shorts.
My thighs no longer waved in the breeze.
My arms actually had a bit of definition.
My heart said “thank you”

The windows are still dirty.
The cobwebs are still hanging down from the ceiling.
Yet the robins are gone from the back yard only to be replaced with the summer resident catbirds.
The sun still shines through the lefthand window making me duly hot before I break my first bead of sweat.
As the elliptical just sits there, silently goading and taunting me. . .

The calendar has turned a page.
The seasons are changing.
My new leaf is ready to be turned over.
The excuse of Summer is no longer viable.
It’s time to get back to a healthier routine. . .

Which in a round about way, brings me around to the whole concept of “my foe verses my enemy.”
In my mind, I believe a foe to be a formidable opponent.
I find that we usually have respect for our foe(s).
We feel competitive toward this said foe.
We may actually develop an affinity for this said foe.
Be it the scales, the elliptical, the mountain, the wave, the mess, the deer, the cat’s litter box (digressing), the whatever it is that is staring us in the face and goading or taunting us to master it, to beat it, to out smart it, to clean it, to better it, to eventually better ourselves. . .

An enemy, on the other hand, is more sinister.
More callous.
There is no feeling of camaraderie.
No kinsmenship.
The enemy does not want me to better myself.
It does not wish me well.
It does not care.

Pondering this fine line of difference between foe and enemy, as I look off the back deck drinking my protein smoothie–yuck— I spy the small group of deer, who have been goading and taunting me all season long with my garden, boldly going where I have valiantly fought keeping them from. . .
Oooooo, they have now grown most bold and defiant as I have grown haplessly weary.
Daylight or dusk they now wander into the midst of my territory undeterred.

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We went round and round, those deer and I.
And yet, I never truly wished them harm.
I simply wanted to keep them at bay, long enough for me to gather, literally, the fruits of my labors.
I did not mind sharing those “fruits.”
I did grow frustrated.
Even discouraged.
I felt challenged.
And yet I knew that they did not wish me ill.
They simply saw an opportunity and took full advantage of it.
And now that I have grown weary, as the garden has grown over, they have thrown caution to the wind and are enjoying, with gusto I might add, the lingering fruits of my previous labors.

Others in this world of ours are not so docile.
Foe and enemy gather round–just as the clouds gather over head.
They are opportunistic to our weariness, our ignorance, our self obsessions.
They are poised to take advantage of the “crack in the door.”

There are foes who will always seem to be the proverbial thrones in our sides.
They will preen and strut, taunting and goading us, yet truly they do not wish to witness our destruction because in the back of their minds they are smart enough to realize that our destruction would be their own.

There are also enemies who are secretly plotting and planning.
They remain often in the shadows, waiting and watching.
They are patient, cunning and ever watchful.
They, unlike our foes, do seek our destruction because in their minds they see our defeat, our destruction, as their glory.. .
. . .Despite the fact that that glory would in turn be their own demise. . .

Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken. But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. . .
Psalm 13:3-5

Principles and Direction

“Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.”
Napoleon Bonaparte

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It is good to have ambition and drive. Goals, aspirations, hopes, dreams, etc. are all good and even essential components to one’s life but it’s what directs these goals, hopes, aspirations, etc– what motivates these dreams and ambitions—that is the truly important key behind the impetus to and eventually success of one’s life’s quests.

We can look at someone like Napoleon, whose quote is the basis of today’s post, as an example of someone who possessed great ambition. There is no denying that he was a great general and leader—that is, up to a certain point. His is the story we in America love—the small-town boy who comes from obscurity, the difficult, somewhat dysfunctional upbringing–a young boy who comes from very humble, and what many at the time considered very poor beginnings, certainly no silver spoon in his mouth. He is laughed at and scorned for his rough around the edges roots, even his accent is ridiculed….and yet he achieves a momentous level of greatness–all because he is driven to do so by an intense desire to succeed.

He does possess one very important attribute which proves to be a decisive factor in his life’s journey, the key to whether he rises to the top in life or remains a part of his very humble surroundings—and that attribute is ambition sprinkled with a strong dose of determination. The only caveat is that the principles and drive behind this ambition, this determination is a tad skewed. Napoleon wants so desperately to rise up and be someone of great importance, not so much as to lead people in the right direction, but rather to prove to others that he is capable of greatness—it is a very selfish and self-centered drive to the top—a sort of “I’ll show them mentality.”

When one’s goals are based solely in the “I’ll show them” category, the rise to greatness may be fast and glorious but the impending fall is blindingly disastrous.

It is my hope that you do have dreams and goals—that we all do. It is also my hope that those dreams and goals are backed by humility, purity, honesty—a desire to not necessarily prove anything to anyone, no aims to “show them” but rather a wish and a hope to make the world a better place. Sincerity of heart is easily recognized—or not. You must decide what is your driving force in life—if it is of a selfish nature, it will never come to positive fruition—history teaches us that.

Take time today to examine your own goals and desires of life looking closely at the driving forces behind them—are they pure and genuine, built upon sharing, kindness, being steeped in the betterment of others or are they laced with self-centeredness, revenge, selfishness, or even subject to the rationalized eventual harming of others? If they are of the former, they are bound for success, but if they are of the latter, then failure is inevitable–and most likely at a terrific cost

Take time today to examine the question “what are your principles and what directs them?” Doing so can make all the difference in not only your world, but in the world of those you inhabit.

Feast and Fellowship

I confess. I love to eat. Let me clarify. I love to eat good food. I enjoy eating said good food, surrounded by those I care about, those who are family and or friends, or simply those who equally enjoy good food and good company. Maybe it’s a quiet evening at home with a well planned out home cooked meal. Maybe it’s a festive time out at a Michelin Five star restaurant. Maybe it’s an unctuous cup of Gelato enjoyed on a street corner in Italy on a hot summer day—good food is often the highlight of the day no matter where or when it is enjoyed. And yes, the blessing of being able to have food, good or bad, is a graciousness that does not go unnoticed. As gratefulness and thankfulness abound.

I put as much planning into where to eat during a travel trip as I do to which hotel I choose for a stay. Often times the well-laid plans of mice and this woman will fall away to a need for spontaneity, leaving way to finding a special place for a special meal on a wing and a prayer. Almost always experienced with memorable results.

I’m reminded of the most delightful little restaurant in Florence. My dear friends the Papinis, who run a very old Florentine leather business (http://papinileather.com/), suggested a very small restaurant just around the corner from their business. My aunt and I wandered in, or I should say down, into a tiny dinning room of an ancient building in an alleyway just off of the small Piazza del Pesce right by the Ponte Vecchio. Realizing that, due to the small dinning room, reservations were a must, as the restaurant’s popularity with locals and tourists alike was abounding—we made reservations for later that evening.

By the time of our reservations, the small dinning room was filling quickly. A husband and wife team, along with a small array of cooks and waiters, ran the restaurant. There was a group of raucous ladies from Texas sitting at a table across from us. A quiet couple form Spain sat next to us. I tend to lean towards Pappadelle with boar sauce as a main course when in Florence, so this particular evening was to be no different. I’m not certain as to why that is—I just find it indulgent as well as most satisfying.

The highlight, however, was the plate of fried squash blossoms. Light and delectable. Reminiscent of fried okra (a “southern thang”). They were so divine that we ordered one more plate prior to ordering desert. There was good reason as to why I ate a bottle of Tums before going to bed that evening as I have never been so “stuffed”…. just thinking about it makes me smile, as well as a little queasy…

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And then there is the velvety smooth warm tomato flan I had in Cortona, Italy. Cortona is home to the University of Georgia’s Visual Arts summer abroad program. It is also home to Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun fame. Cortona is a quaint and ancient hilltop medieval town in southern Tuscany.

Perched atop the main piazza in town sits a small yet delightful restaurant, La Grotta. My aunt and I had a table sitting along the ledge overlooking the Piazza della Republica, which is the location for our friend Marco Molesini’s wine shop. His family runs a deli/grocery store and he runs the wine shop—shipping wines, vinegars, olive oils, cheese and meats all the world over (http://www.molesini-market.com/). Much to my surprise when I walked into his shop, he was sporting a Georgia Bulldog T shirt—seems Marco attended the University of Georgia and is an official Bulldog just like me—an instant friend bound by the Dawgs found an ocean away!

It is here that on a warm summer’s evening one my sip fruity Tuscan Chianti wines while watching the swallows (chimney swifts) darting about the courtyard like Japanese zeros honing in on an unforeseen target. The peace that settles in over this small town is heavenly. Families, with their young children in tow, gathered below us, meeting together before deciding where to head off for a fine meal. I was completely content in this moment.

I had ordered the tomato flan and my aunt the Burschetta. Both prepared with the freshest vine ripened tomatoes, freshly picked aromatic basil and the peppery local olive oil that Tuscany is so famous for.
Not only were they both strikingly vibrant with vivid color stimulants for the eye, the taste buds were equally rewarded with the bursts of fresh flavor. The flan arrived in a small dish sitting is a puddle of warm basil infused olive oil. The first bite was nothing short of magical. The setting also helped add to the magically surreal moment.

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If it is a sweet one seeks, Zurich is home to Sprungli’s Chocolates/Café (Lindt Chocolates). It was here, this past September, while on the “Great Retirement Adventure”, that my aunt, my friend Melissa and I all found out what chocolate is truly all about.

We had just arrived in town after a long overnight flight. It was still early morning and we were hungry. Who says you can’t eat chocolate for breakfast? Of course there was coffee ordered so that may qualify our meal of Chocolate mouse cakes, our first breakfast meal in Switzerland, as acceptable. One bite of this light, tongue coating smooth concoction of cream, sugar, chocolate, vanilla–an amalgamation of goodness—one will never be the same.

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We were in Zurich for a day and a half and visited Sprunglis’ multiple times. They do offer “real” food as well, besides the myriads of pastries, pies, cakes, macrons, and chocolate, but why bother?! Oh I could go on but there will be a posting later on such treats……….

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And then there is the fellowshipping.

I have always believed in good company with a good meal. I also prefer being the one whose preparing the meal. I just feel more comfortable doing all of the work I suppose—not that I’m a martyr by any means—just enjoy cooking for those I care for, or for those I don’t really know.

All during my tenure as a teacher, it always seemed as if we were having some sort of shower or party after school celebrating something, anything. There were showers to celebrate the impending marriage of either a teacher or the grown child of a teacher. Showers for a young pregnant teacher or for the coming of a grandbaby for an older teacher.
We had “parties” for the faculty if we, as a school,were to be receiving some honor or accolade. We welcomed new administrators with cake and punch and said good-bye to our retirees with a luncheon. You name it, we gathered together to celebrate at any possible opportunity. And I was always happiest when working behind the scenes of these events.

When the time came for my own good-byes, it was to be no different. I had to be the one cooking and preparing. I told the ladies of the school that we would “feast and fellowship” at my house once school was finished for the year. Of course we had the end of year luncheon at school where I was truly humbled by the display of “good-byes”, but it was the feast and the fellowship shindig at my house, with all of the school’s ladies, that was most memorable. In order to protect the identities of all involved, I will say no more 🙂 Trust me, however, when I say that a good time was truly had by all. My salad niçoise and muddled peach juleps—marvelous…. but I digress.

A few years back, when scoping out my Bon Appetite Magazine, I always enjoyed reading the back page. On the back page, the Magazine always highlighted some famous person, always asking about their idea of a good meal, what were the 3 most important things in their refrigerator, and my most favorite question, “what 3 people from history would you invite to dinner?” I’ve always thought about this question wishing someone would ask me the same thing.

Well since you’ve asked, I’ll tell you.

I’ve thought about this question for years. At first I thought about asking some really big name world changer…. Gandhi. But then I thought better of that as he would most likely be on a hunger strike and not interested in feasting or fellowshipping. I couldn’t ask Mother Teresa as she would admonish me letting me know in no uncertain terms that I should be feeding those in need in my community rather than preparing a special meal for her (now I’m rethinking this whole idea).

There is, however one individual, who I know would not only enjoy feasting on a good meal, but he would enjoy taking center stage of conversation, taking the fellowshipping to an all time high. My hero, Sir Winston Spencer Churchill. I would also have to ask my other hero. Father Karol Wojtyla, otherwise known as Pope John Paul II. Two vastly different men but two men I would love to listen to in person, basking in the knowledge and blessing received by being in their presence.

But who will be my third dinner guest? Julia Child? No, her vivacious personality would sway all of the attention of my gentlemen guests in her direction. I would hate being jealous of Julia. What about my hero Margaret Thatcher? No. I fear she would dominate conversation with Winston regarding policies of Great Britton during both of their respective times in office leaving me to feel left out. No fun being left out at your own dinner party.

No, I won’t ask another female. I’ll be selfish. But who…. hummm…Ahhhh…what’s a fine meal without a little good French food and wine? Who would most appreciate French Food (besides Julia)? Napoleon Bonaparte—the little Corsican general and self crowned French Emperor! Who, oddly enough, I so admire. A ladies man to be sure. Charming and polite. However, upon meeting Churchill, that genteel demeanor would most quickly vanish.

Winston and Fr. Wojtyla, will no doubt, talk about the War (remember the War is always WWII). But once Napoleon shows up for the evening, Winston will be in rare form. He will parley with the “little general” taunting him with his study of Wellington and of Russia. Playing up the eventual defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo to a crushing crescendo to my dinner guest’s dismal dismay—and loving every minute of it.

But knowing Napoleon, he will not remain silent, fighting to the end. It will be at this moment that I will ask Fr. Wojtyla if he would like to leave the military campaign behind in order to depart with me to a quiet room, only to enjoy a last glass of wine and discus his latest views of the plight of man. I would sit in rapture and in awe of this bigger than life man, mystic and soon to be saint. That would be a most special evening indeed.

I cannot leave you pondering the joys (and sometimes the tragedies) of feasting and fellowshipping without leaving you something a bit tangible from today’s discourse. You must have a recipe. It is an almost fail proof recipe for a country round loaf of delightfully rustic bread. Now I have had some measured success with a recipe that included the whole yeast, rise, knead, rise some more boule type round…but to be on the safe side we’ll go with this William Sonoma choice. I usually make this for Easter as it has the light hint of Rosemary, the herb of “remembrance” and lemon, which harkens to the renewal of Spring and warmth.

No better ingredient to a true feasting of fellowship then the breaking of the bread, together. The ancient and time honored tradition of hospitality, sacrifice and everlasting Hope…

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Rosemary-Lemon No-Knead Bread
This bread is almost effortless to make because it requires no kneading. Instead, the dough is allowed to slowly rise over a long period of time. Then it is baked in a preheated covered cast-iron pot, which helps produce a crispy, bakery-style crust on the finished loaf.
Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp. chopped lemon zest
Cornmeal as needed
Directions:
In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt, rosemary and zest. Add 1 5/8 cups water and stir until blended; the dough will be shaggy and very sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at warm room temperature (about 70°F) until the surface is dotted with bubbles, 12 to 18 hours.

Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle the dough with a little flour and fold the dough over onto itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or your fingers, gently and quickly shape the dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel, preferably a flour sack towel (not terry cloth), with cornmeal. Put the dough, seam side down, on the towel and dust with more flour or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise until the dough is more than double in size and does not readily spring back when poked with a finger, about 2 hours.

At least 30 minutes before the dough is ready, put a 2 3/4-quart cast-iron pot in the oven and preheat the oven to 450°F.

Carefully remove the pot from the oven. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over, seam side up, into the pot; it may look like a mess, but that is OK. Shake the pan once or twice if the dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the loaf is browned, 15 to 30 minutes more.

Transfer the pot to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Using oven mitts, turn the pot on its side and gently turn the bread; it will release easily. Makes one 1 1/2-lb. loaf.

Adapted from Sullivan Street Bakery (New York City) and Mark Bittman, "The Secret of Great Bread: Let Time Do the Work," The New York Times, Nov. 8, 2006.