Storms, Mother Nature’s premier musketeer, are a part of life, like bread and bugs and the hanging stench of trash outside a dumpster. To take it a step further, I’d argue that the storm is life itself. Your life is your Storm.
The gray of oncoming storms is all encompassing. One one hand, the rifts of lightning and thunder electrify steamy afternoons and fill the air with static enough to startle hairs from their follicles and souls from their slumbers. The literal storm, with noise enough to raise your hackles. But hidden in the pearls of rain are metaphors. Some are obvious and specific, likening storms to emotional tumult. Downpours to tears and thunder to fears. In one of my fiction ventures, I christened the storm as one’s destiny, his or her entire life braided with every shade of emotion and every thread of experience. The Storm is unavoidable. I like that way of looking at things, as neither good nor bad, but simply as the way life is meant to play out.
I wrote this chapter during a rough period of my life, when I lived with both parents and spent morning-afternoon-night curled in my bedroom with the shutters of the window snapped shut. It reminded me to hoist my sleeves above my elbows every day and keep digging in the slush pile until I found gold. I’m not sure the precious metal ever surfaced, but something glinted in the darkness and I grabbed it and haven’t opened my fist since. Whether you’re reading this happy or just barely lifting your head to the computer screen, this talk of storms and bursting clouds exhausts not about how loud and disastrous floods and thunderbolts are. Rather, The Storm is a thing I’d like to celebrate. The loudness with which we occupy this lifetime. Even if you are shy and recluse, you are still a force of thousandfold volts. Your wattage sparks hot and bright. We are all Storms, and we all have Storms, and like bread a formula can be followed to a tee yet emerge entirely different with each trial. This loaf of sweet potato bread is a perfect example of deviating from a written prescription and being satisfied by the result. I downed one slice immediately with a pat of salty butter and later pelted two huge chunks into my roommate’s arms before she hurried out the door en route to her boyfriend’s abode. Fittingly, rain pattered against the screen encasing my balcony and thus brooding over the Storm of humanity seemed right at that hour. I leave you with the assurance that your Storm is just as worthwhile as anyone else’s, and it is yours to boast of and yours to rouse.
Excerpt from chapter 8: “The Voices”
“The Storm stands for many things,” said Doc briskly. “It is the torment in which the Flonishmen landed at that first battle. It is the blizzards which presently whitewash this land. It is also your legacy. You bring your own Storm whilst you live, some sort of aftermath is left behind to either sweeten or blacken the soil. It can be good or bad to you and others, but you have no choice but to accept it. And run to it. My storm is a whirlwind of potions and herbs. Yours is your Locket.
“So, go! Your Storm is waiting to boil!”
Buttermilk Sweet Potato Loaf
I recommend you split the dough into two loaves after the initial rising period to prevent a Super Loaf from assuming a tyrannic role over the world of bread (like mine did, ahem). Enjoy this lightly sweet, cinnamon-infused creation with a pat of butter or a sprinkle of powdered sugar at breakfast or snacktime. Or straight out of the oven. Or tear off hunks with your fingers and knock ’em back with strong coffee. Up to you. Either way, it tastes like the tiptoe of summer on the cusp of autumn before it gently sways into the new season and a pile of honeyed maple leaves. A perfect transition food to allay those final summer rains.
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into one-inch cubes
1 package yeast
2/3 cup buttermilk, warmed
1 cup warm water
2 T butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4-5 cups all-purpose flour + more for dusting
1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg, beaten
ASSEMBLY: Wash sweet potato, peel and cut into cubes; place into pan and cover with water until fully submerged. Cook on stovetop until very tender (fork slides easily through). Drain, rinse with cool water and mash with a fork in a small metal bowl; set aside.
In a larger bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water (temp should be about 110 degrees) with a sprinkling of sugar for 5 minutes. Add buttermilk, butter, sugar and salt, stirring to combine; then add sweet potato mash and stir. Add flour one cup at a time and stir until a stiff dough is achieved – it may be slightly sticky but residue should not come off on your hands. Turn onto a floured surface and knead 5-7 minutes until dough springs back up when poked. Butter or oil a clean bowl, place ball of dough on top and cover with a dish towel. Let rise until doubled, about an hour.
When dough is risen, punch down and divide into two. Grease two bread pans, shape dough into loaves & place into bread pans. Cover with a dish towel and let rise an additional 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees in the meantime. Once risen for the second time, whisk egg in a small bowl with a bit of water (about 1 TBS) & brush over top to achieve a nice crisped crust.
Remove towels and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the loaves sound hollow when knocked. Remove from oven and cool about 15 minutes in the bread pan, then transfer to a wire rack and cool for another 30-45 minutes. Serve warm.