The Satisfaction of Dirty but Creative Hands

While convalescing these past two weeks, though my brain was fuzzy most of the time, but my hands were always itching to do something productive. Writing was sadly out of the question, and photography even more, since I was confined at home. That left cooking, baking and gardening. Meat, I found, was not very appealing while being hostage to coughing attacks, so I kept the food vegetarian. Thank goodness for all the fresh vegetables available now that winter is practically over! I experimented with a lot of new recipes and decided that lemon pasta with fresh spinach is a good thing, and so on.

Healthy, homemade and gluten-free!

Baking bread in Germany, the bread haven of the world, is basically bringing coals to Newcastle. But I have yet to find a bakery in Berlin that I like and meets my standards. Don’t get me wrong, there is a bakery at every corner here, but they are all part of large industrial chains, all the products baked with no love in them at all. In spite of the variety, it is all very sad. There are two bakeries close to the office that I will deem acceptable, but otherwise, there is nothing that compares to the countryside bakeries of South Germany, where there is probably just one baker in the village and the family running it has been doing so for generations. A morning forage to the village baker will result in a sweet for the children and an update on the latest village news. It is incredibly charming and familiar, an experience I very much appreciated in Spain and certain parts of Italy.

In my frustration, I decided to revive my bread baking, and chose a new recipe that was designed for a cast iron pan. I swear by these pans and no longer have the need to use baking tins for pizzas or breads. Cakes are a bit trickier, but the crust of bread, pizza, and scones that have been lovingly made in a cast iron pan is unparalleled. The photograph you see above is the result of this morning’s experiment – no-knead skillet bread with fresh rosemary and rock salt (I used spelt flour). Let’s just say there was no need for cheese or cold cuts to go with it when it emerged from the oven!

Moroccan Mint

In addition to baking and cooking, my little conservatory has received a lot of attention lately. I have jumped on the bandwagon for sustainable gardening and began growing herbs and vegetables in small containers. I felt my grandmother and father smiling down on me in approval each time I split a store-bought pot of herbs and propagated them into three or four smaller bundles. As a result, I have generous amounts of basil, moroccan mint, sage, parsley and rosemary now growing in the conservatory.

Basil, parsley, lemon grass

My darling friend SBK once taught me how to raise tomatoes by simply planting half a tomato in a pot, wait for it to sprout in a couple of weeks and then segregate them into viable plants. Well, I took this knowledge to the next level and found all sorts of tips for other vegetables that you can grow in containers from scraps as long as you know how to root them. I am now the proud owner of a pot of lemon grass and I have garlic and spring onions coming up. Next in line (I ran out of pots and soil) are butternut squash, avocado, and spinach! Rooting powder is my best friend and favourite gardening “tool”. It worked wonders for propagating succulents and money plants!

In my enthusiasm however, I gathered about eight small pots and planted all sorts of seeds in them, but completely forgot to label them. So I have a few surprises coming my way in the next couple of months…

The sensation of running a squishy dough through my fingers or fresh, healthy soil is therapeutic both for the body and soul. I am a creature who creates parallel worlds with words or photographs, but I also value the gift of creating food and nurturing plants with my hands. I will never own a house and garden in this lifetime, but am perfectly content with converting my little corner of the world into a viable and sustainable urban farming, with flowers, herbs and vegetables that combine to make a healing jungle.

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