I really don't like getting chain email. I've even made personal requests to some people who tended to frequently direct them to me to be taken out of the person's email lists entirely--I find it really aggravating. I can't think of anything I've ever received which I found important enough to send to everyone on my mailing list. Today, for example, I receiving a "lucky chinese proverb" that apparently originated in the Netherlands. Right... why do people send this on? Do they really believe that they're going to strike it rich because they sent it to everyone the knew? And last week one person I know forwarded a kind of missing person alert which turned out to be, of course, entirely false. I've also been emailed strange new (not to mention bizarre and dubious) scientific "facts" like... wearing a bra contributed to breast cancer.
I hate to see my mailbox be cluttered with this kind of junk. I also find it odd how Christian inspirational messages make it on to mailings lists for Muslim women. I really don't like the ones that imply you are somehow sinning by refusing to clutter the inboxes of your nearest pals because you don't pass on a powerpoint presentation.
But this past weekend has introduced me to a far greater foe than the email chain letters... and it calls itself Amish Friendship Bread. Now, I've always been fairly decent at baking and have lately been trying to hone my culinary skills, but I don't eat bread. I might occasionally buy a loaf of say, pound cake, for example, to make strawberry short cake. But I very seldom eat toast and in general stay away from bread altogether. So when one of my friends tried to give me a ziploc bag full of some gooey mixture to make "Amish Friendship Bread" I balked. No, no, no, I told her. I don't eat bread, I don't bake bread. But it's more like cake, she tried to reassure me--as if that isn't worse! If bread alone isn't bad enough, add a ton of sugar... yes, very healthy--NOT! I told her that I wouldn't bake it, nor eat it, and so I definitely didn't want the recipe. And I got out of it! Lucky me... so I thought...
That is, until, the same friend manages to convince my roommate to give it a try. And the next day as I wake up there is a ziploc bag of a growing yeast culture staring up at me from the counter. The recipe came with the "starter" (the ziploc bag mix) and I looked it over. It was something to the effect of:
Day 1: Mash the bag.
Day 2: Mash the bag.
Day 3. Mash the bag.
Okay, you see where this is going, don't you?
On some days during the 10-day incubation period you add more food for the yeast--milk, sugar, flour. On the other days... you mash the bag. That's right--10 days of bag mashing yeast growing before you can bake it.
So for a few days I watch it growing on the counter--not that you can tell it's growing by looking at it, at first. So I guess instead of watching it... I was smelling it. Before I realized what was going on in the bag (that is before I became wiser on the yeast factor in the ziploc bag) I was unnerved by its awful smell in the kitchen. I couldn't figure out what was making the smell, and sometimes could even smell it in the living room--most unpleasant, I promise.
But in the last couple of days... the fermentation really took off. And that bag was just filling up with more and more air. Too bad, it was right at the end of the cycle that my roommate decided to take a little vacation and go out of town for a few days! Even though I promised I would NOT bake her bread for her. She ended up coming back a day late--a day after it was supposed to be made--and as promised, I didn't bake it. I just watched it getting bigger... figuring I'd let some air out if it got too full, since I wouldn't want to have to clean it up if the bag exploded. Essentially, I'd choose the option that grossed me out less.
So eventually my roommate comes home... and then discovers this complicated recipe and the fact that she doesn't just get to bake one loaf. She gets to bake two loaves. And then, she has to give away four more ziploc bags of the starter! (Now is time for "ROFL")
She got home kind of late, though... but she had to bake it that night, meaning she had to procure some odd ingredients from the grocery store near closing hours--like a box of vanilla pudding. (Which makes me wonder about the Amish-ness of this friendship bread.) So my poor roommate was up way past midnight baking this silly sugar loaf. And staring up at me on the dining room table are... that's right, you guessed it: four more ziploc bags of starter.
She resolves to get rid of the excess by tricking her coworkers into it--taking a loaf up to work to share, as well as the starter bags and copies of the recipe. Snicker...
But that's not the end of the bread story. Last night I was having dinner at the home of the original friend who shared the starter. And naturally, she still had a dish of bread to share with guests... without asking them first! Yes, this is how you get rid of unwanted Amish friendship bread: hand them the bread without asking so they don't have a chance to turn it down! It's already on a plate just for them.
My roommate and I both tried to politely decline the bread--after all, we had two loaves at home! We weren't successful.. and were forced to eat the bread. On the upside, the friend who baked it opted to use much less sugar than called for, so the bread wasn't as heavy or as sweet. That's always a bonus, when you find yourself being forced to consume calories you'd rather do without.
But of course--along with the baked bread, this friend also had four more bags of starter (bwahaha) she had to give away. One of those bags was going to another friend who was present to my snide comments about the evil bread. Yes, it was evil. I began to blame the bread for minor problems--something sticky on one lady's pants, for example, earned the retort "Maybe it's bread," from me. Well... maybe it was!
So now the only goal (for us) with this friendship bread is to avoid at all costs EVER being given a starter. You see, that's why it's called friendship bread--you give it to all your friends, not just to eat but to BAKE! With a 10-day procedure of bag-mashing. I guess if they take it, they must really be your friends, huh?