Thursday, June 7, 2012

Demon's Farts and Other Legacies

So, I have a new job. Actually I've had this job for a smidge over a month now, but I'm just starting to get a finger and toe hold of an idea of what my life will be like on this train I am currently riding. It's been a fun, crazy, breathless time, and somehow in there I managed to learn something about pumpernickel.

 Me and pumpernickel, we go way back. I know it appeared for sandwiches (pastrami was probably my gateway to pumpernickel) but mostly I remember the bread dip. It was a recipe from my aunt, and it was creamy and full of dill and always served in a bowl of pumpernickel bread. On such occasions as this dip would appear, I would happily eat what was left of the bowl, with its thin layer of remaining dip, delighting in the flavors and textures. Those loaves even had the occasional raisin in them. I have no idea what made that baker put raisins in the pumpernickel, but it's probably the reason I like raisins, especially in savory items.

When faced with the prospect of making my own pumpernickel, it was that pumpernickel of my memories I wanted to recreate. Like so many other cooks before me, I found the task daunting, frustrating and perplexing. True pumpernickel is not what most Americans eat. The name refers to a sourdough rye bread that was baked low and long to get its dark color and was considered so indigestible that the name describes what the consumer was to experience later as a result of eating it. I'm not quite sure what demon's farts are supposed to be like, but it sounds really awful. So I'm mostly glad that the recipe in America was lightened up and enhanced, even if the name stuck. My sticking point was the enhancements. Pumpernickel color makes a nice dark loaf, but it is really just food coloring. Bleh. Pumpernickel flour, when checking the label, turns out to be dark rye flour with a variation that existed only on the price tag. Phooey. And everyone who loves pumpernickel has their own absolute list of what can and cannot appear: caraway or no, onions or no, coffee, chocolate, etc, etc, etc.

So I made my own list, and did what anyone experimenting with food should do - I played until it tasted right. I know without a shadow of a doubt that there are those who will tell me how wrong I am doing it, but this is mine. Yes, dammit, there is caraway.  And despite the naysayers, there are those out there who have told me, "Hey, this is really good pumpernickel." I'm glad they like my memories.

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