Sheep and Pig
The musings of sand crabs woke me. I mistook their pinching claws for the caress of my wife. Their clacks were her voice quietly whispering over the crash of the surf saying, “Wake up lazy oaf there is work to be done.”
And when I opened my eyes, it wasn’t my wife who stood over me, but a young lass who spoke in a tongue I didn’t recognize. She brushed the sand from my face, shook her head and tried to pull me to my feet. How long had I been lying in the surf?
Shards of pain ripped through my legs and I collapsed with a scream; my legs were broken like my ship around me. Maybe it was sargassum I floated on to this shore, my fortune, my luck. But how I wished more than anything for this nightmare to end, to be in my wife’s arms again.
The girl strained to move me, then disappeared for a time returning with a beast. She lashed me to a beam and moored the beam to the beast’s harness. She pulled me away from the sand and water, the beam scraped over the stony beach to the smooth dirt of a fallow field.
I struggled to free myself and return to the pieces of my ship, but pain drifted me away to sleep. I woke again in the corner of a stone room on a bed of fresh hay.
A Miller’s stone ground round and round, pulled by the wretched ox. I heard her humming as she approached; her hair wrapped in cloth, her teeth broken and brown, she had pretty green eyes.
No woman has green eyes where I come from. How far had I traveled on the sea?
Again, I didn’t understand when she spoke. She held a steaming bowl of soup and a slice of bread out to me. Food I understood. My mouth opened like a baby bird and she sopped the bread and pushed it in. Coughing and spitting, I had to force it down. It was the bitterest of broth, and the bread made me understand her teeth. She held me down, forcing me to eat.
I had to get well to return home.
Night came, and the air was chill. She penned a sheep and a pig with me. If it weren’t for my bedfellows, I would have frozen to death. But still, they weren’t my wife.
Every morning she arrived with rosy cheeks and a smile on her face, she’d hurry out my new companions, Squeal and Bleat, tended to the ox, then to me. While the ox strained and grunted to turn the stone, she’d stuff me full of the bitter broth, then set to baking her bread.
Her comings and goings were rhythmic, like her kneading, and as my strength grew I was eventually able to sit up without pain. I spoke to her, told her of my wife and what I would do when I returned home.
One morning she entered quite hurried; she stoked the fire and sacked the flour, leaving Squeal and Bleat penned in with me. Where were the other villagers, I wondered. I called out and heard an angry man’s voice outside. Worry crossed her face, and she hushed me with her hands, pointing to her neck, making a chopping motion. The voice outside grumbled again, dust puffed up as she disappeared through the door. Her soft voice turned trill, and she returned bleeding from her nose to take my companions out. In the dark of the mill I wondered why I was kept secret, and what of the man outside? I feared and fantasized.
Quietly, I marked the days by feedings and the ox grinding. Tired of the food, I put my eyes to hers wanting something edible. I hammered the bread on the floor, chipping the stone. The crust was harder than the hull of a ship, the broth more bitter than pitch. She shrugged and smiled and left me, returning with more broth. How I survived is unknown.
That night I knew what I had to do. I would bake me a ship. One with the iron hull of the bread that I was forced to eat and little by little I gathered flour, and at night I knitted a sail right off the sheep. It was twenty days by my count, and I was ready.
Spring was in the air and when the Miller girl bade me a good night, I went to work. Wetting the flour and folding it in the moonlight. I covered the dough with wet hay and set fire to the mill. Wrapped in my sail to keep warm, I hid in a nearby crag.
The villagers came to put the fire out, but it was no use. I could hear the Miller girl’s voice crying in anguish.
At dawn when they left, I went for my ship, sifting through the hot ashes. My hands blistered on dying coals, but I found my treasure. With an ax, I chopped the top off and scooped it out making room for a cabin, and provisions; mutton and roast swine from the ashes. I affixed the top and rolled it down to the sea’s edge, and there I set sail from where I had washed ashore.
Whole Wheat Bread
This is the only recipe in metric, but as we all know bread making is a precise craft and requires accuracy.
350 grams whole wheat bread flour
150 grams semolina
325 grams water
10 grams active dry yeast
12 grams salt
Combine the all of the water, 5 grams yeast and 250 grams of the flour at night before you go to bed. Mix thoroughly. In the morning after coffee add the salt and the remaining flour; mix and knead until it all of the flour is incorporated. Stretch and fold the dough for 10 minutes. Let rise for 1 hour. Stretch and fold and shape the dough into a ball shape. Let rise for another hour. Bake at 425 for 45-50 minutes in a cast iron pot.
Note: rise times vary on room temperature. Look for a doubling in the size of the dough.