What is the point of this still life, the bowl or the fruit? How much can I say about a bunch of bananas and one leftover apple? I suppose I could talk about the 12-hour window that separates not-quite-ripe-enough from "Oops! Time for banana bread." But there you are: I just said all there is to say on that topic.
Who keeps fruit bowls these days? One of my daughters was given a fruit bowl as a wedding gift. She had asked for "beautiful things," and she and her groom were given many beautiful bowls, platters, and goblets of all sizes. At the time they lived in a renovated chicken coop (oh, don't even ask!) outside of
The bowl is still in use now, almost fifteen years later. When we visit her in her current home, the bowl is filled with bananas, avocados, oranges, grapefruits, pears, apples, and often peaches or apricots. Sometimes a couple of tomatoes are at the top of the heap, ripening from Mexico-green to pale winter red.
I'm always inspired by her fruit bowl. My own lacks not only her colourful riot of diversity, being limited to a bunch of bananas and a couple of apples or pears, but also the bright cheerfulness of her ceramic bowl. However, my bowl has its own rustic charm. It is an antique wooden bowl, two feet across at the top, and an inch thick, with a single decorative line gouged or routed around the outside.
This was originally a dough bowl. The housewife mixed her bread dough in it, kneaded it in the bowl, and then let it rise, still in the bowl, resting on a layer of flour. As she shaped her loaves, the cook set aside a chunk of dough to serve as "old dough" to raise the next batch of bread. Between breadmaking sessions, she kept the little ball of "old dough" in the bowl, protected by a mound of flour.
This is what I have been told, but I take it with a grain of salt. I tried for a while to make my bread this way, in this bowl, but never very successfully. The bowl was hard to cleanand I wasn't sure how much I should clean it, to be authentic. I had the impression that the pioneer housewife didn't clean it beyond scraping out some of the dried-on bread dough. She surely didn't use water to clean her wooden bowl.
But my attempts to make bread like a pioneer woman ended completely when I forgot to tell my new household helper, years and years ago, not to wash the bowl. While I was at work, she spent the better part of a morning cleaning it with soap and water, immersing it in the sink as best she could, given its size, and soaking it for as long as it took to loosen the dried dough stuck to the bowl. When I got home, my bowl was swollen with water, and a gaping mouth of a crack ran two-thirds of the way around the perimeter, threatening to break off the rim. That bowl was badly damaged.
I babied it and cajoled it back to a semblance of its former wholeness, and I promised it that I would stop pretending I was a pioneer housewife. I would stop using it to make bread. Its swelling diminished, the gaping crack shrank to near invisibility, and its retirement to fruit-bowl status has suited us both very well.
Copyright 2010 Ann Tudor