Cooking can be a metaphor for so many different aspects of life – success, failure, love, loss, just to name a few. Today I’d like to consider cooking as a metaphor for friendship. I’ve been “friending” longer than I’ve been cooking. And by “friending”, I don’t mean the passive Facebook friendships where you amass a posse of people, your virtual friends, who you may or may not interact with in the real world. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to have been “friended” by people I’ve known for ages and managed to lose touch with over the years. But to me, reading a status update about somebody’s Farkle score or latest additions to Farmville doesn’t feel like a true friendship.
What can I say about friendships? Friendships take nurturing. They take commitment and time and patience. They involve give and take. Some friendships fade quickly while others offer a lifetime of sustained comfort. Friendships grow over time, developing unique characters and flavors. Friendship is better when it is shared with others rather than hoarded selfishly.
So how is cooking a metaphor for friendship? Let’s consider Amish Friendship Bread. You receive a starter that will become the base of your bread. But it must be tended daily. You must hold its hand, nurturing it to grow.
In order for it to grow, it needs to be fed over a period of time. You have to be patient with it, nourishing it with flour and milk and sugar.
As you give to the starter and allow it to grow, it will acquire a depth and personality uniquely its own. And as you pass along bits of your starter to others, for them to tend and grow, you reinforce the fundamental nature of friendship.
I’m not saying that the perfect recipe for friendship can be found in Amish Friendship Bread. But it is a reminder that good friendships, like good cooking, don’t just happen all by themselves. If I put as much time into my friendships on a daily basis as I do my cooking, I’d be both nourished and fed.
Amish Friendship Bread
BAH Note 1: I have not personally made this starter. But according to the Interwebs, if you want to start this tasty chain letter among your friends, here’s how you go about making the starter. Oh, there’s also a lot of admonishments about not letting anything metal (like bowls or spoons) come into contact with the starter or the batter. I don’t really like my friendships, or my recipes, to come with strings (or outdated information) attached so I advocate building the starter in plastic bags and using whatever bowls and spoons you prefer when mixing up the batter. Since I don’t figure many of us will be mixing with aluminum or copper anything, I reckon that the batter should be fine with stainless steel bowls, spoons, or paddle attachments.
BAH Note 2: Technically, there’s nothing saying you can’t let that starter sit for a few hours and then portion out one cup of it to make a batch of quick bread. Cooking, like friendships, can be flexible like that. But the longer you let the starter age, the more flavor your bread will have. I find that it’s easier to give away cupcakes but if you prefer, the quick bread can be baked off in two small loaf pans. Just butter and flour the pans well and bake for 40 minutes to 1 hour or until a tester comes out clean.
- 1 pkg. active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water (about 110°)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup warm milk (about 110°)
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Meanwhile, in a 2 quart glass or plastic container, combine 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar and mix thoroughly.
Slowly stir the warm milk and dissolved yeast mixture into the flour and sugar. Transfer the mixture to a one gallon resealable plastic bag, removing as much air as possible. The mixture will get bubbly. Consider this Day 1 of the cycle, or the day you receive the starter.
Day 1: Make or receive the starter.
Days 2 – 4: Squeeze the bag, removing any air that has built up in the bag.
Day 5: Combine 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup milk and add to the bag. Squeeze to combine.
Days 6-9: Squeeze the bag, removing any air that has built up in the bag.
Day 10: Transfer the starter to a large bowl and add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk. Stir. Take out 3 cups and place 1 cup each into three separate resealable plastic bags labeled with the date. (Give one bag of starter and a copy of this recipe to three friends – yes, it’s an edible chain letter).
- 1 cup oil
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 – (5.1 oz) box instant vanilla pudding
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup sugar mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Heat the oven to 350 degrees and line two muffin tins with paper liners.
Add oil, milk, eggs, and vanilla to the remaining one cup of batter and mix well.
In a separate bowl combine all the dry ingredients except the cinnamon sugar and mix well. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until combined.
Fill the paper lined muffin tins about 3/4 full and sprinkle the batter with the cinnamon sugar. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the muffins puff, brown, and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for five minutes and then turn them out to cool completely on a wire rack.