Saturday, August 6, 2011

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts: Whole Wheat Lemon Olive Oil Bread

Food and furniture share two striking similarities: when you need them, nothing is more welcome.  However, when you don't want them, nothing is more abhorrent.

When I'm experiencing a blood sugar meltdown and I wander into a convenience store and see a bag of salted cashews for sale--in other words, snack food that is satiating and doesn't contain lots of sugar and weird ingredients--it is like manna from heaven in my eyes.  Conversely,  when I am on a train and the person in the seat beside me whips out two pizza slices to slurp down, I find myself wondering: "do I attract people who order extra garlic?"  and "how is it possible to eat only two chairs away from a public restroom?"

A number of years ago, when I was away, my father showed up on my mother's doorstep with a full bedroom and dining set in a van. My stepmother was getting new furniture and my father "didn't want to let the old things go to waste because they were perfectly good."  The idea that the least 'wasteful' thing to do would be to keep the furniture didn't seem to occur to anyone. My mother, careful as always not to vex her ex-husband, accepted the offer.

The bed was enormous. It was so large it filled the entire expanse of the largest bedroom in our home. It was clearly made for a much larger and extravagant home.  Perhaps in some 1970s Austin Powers-style film having a bed as large as an entire room looks cool and swingin.' But since this bed had a fluffy dust ruffle and a headboard, the effect was more 'my furniture ate your room' than Goldfinger.

Why do I speak in the past tense?  It is still sitting in that room, in the house that passed from my mother to myself...

The black lacquer dining set started attracting dust literally as soon as it touched down in the dining room, and clashed so hideously with the carpet that when I was getting replacement windows several years ago the CONSTRUCTION dude asked me: "what were you thinking when you got that set?"  When a guy wearing flannel, a hammer, and a camouflage jacket filled with lottery scratch-off tickets is horrified by the aesthetic sensibility of a piece of furniture, you know it's bad.

Hopefully, tomorrow, after many years, I will have found an organization to take this furniture, so it can find its home in the charmingly decaying Miss Havisham-like mansion it deserves as its final resting place.

However, I really can't blame my father and mother entirely for giving it to us, since my father seems to have a strange compulsion to collect.  A few years ago he was getting a moldy shower door replaced, and asked me if I would like it to replace my perfectly functional door with his cast-off door. He also asks me if I would like his old National Geographics, a magazine he perplexingly subscribes to but never reads.

His work station is filled with the most cutting-edge electronic gear--all of which he understands and can install with ease, I should add, and he's put in a number of grounding devices and installed electric plugs in my home.  But he also has some odd, wood-paneled devices from the 1970s he can't bear to throw away.

My father isn't a 'hoarder'--everything is clean, dusted, and perfectly organized--all of his bills, instruction manuals, and car wash detergent and termite killer from 1963 in the garage. When he runs out of organizational space, he tries to move the stuff on to others--my mom, when she was alive. Since my mother was also incapable of throwing out anything--we had three non-working computers set up that could run Word Perfect and one dot matrix computer in the house when she passed away, I would always shudder a bit whenever my father began a sentence with the words...."do you want...."

I suppose I should admire my parent's thrift a bit more. And I hasten to add, I do agree 'they don't build 'em like they used do.'  The water heater in my home lasted 20 years, the old stove lasted even longer.  The washing machine died when it was 32.

However, it is very easy to become trapped in old ways, trapped by possessions, and trapped by the sheer magnitude of stuff when you cling too much to things.

In honor of my Greek father, here is some olive oil and lemon bread, a very Mediterranean combination.  It's tasty and it will go quickly.  When I gave it to my father he said he was worried he wouldn't finish it and it would go to waste. It's gone by now, but the tube of Pillsbury dough from 2001 remains in his storage freezer.

Whole Wheat Lemon Olive Oil Bread


2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large beaten eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup mild-flavored olive oil (additional oil for greasing pan)
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup walnuts


1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9X5 loaf pan with oil

2. Sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together

3. Combine the eggs, milk, and oil. Zest in the lemon. Fold in the dry mixture, then add the walnuts after lightly flouring the nuts to prevent 'sinkage.'

3. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes


  1. I guess I've been very lucky. I have a lot of things other people cast off, but I like the majority of it, and while none of it really matches it seems to all make sense being together in my house.

  2. @Catboy--I love an eclectic style! I guess my real beef with this furniture is that I can't move it around, and I like to change things to shake up the appearance of my living area. Some of your vintage finds are amazing, and look like some quite pricey new and/or antique things I see advertised.