Monday, February 6, 2012

The Gingerbread Thief

A Guest post by Finn the Cooking Assistant (aka the dog picker)

I was under-the-weather this weekend. Management blamed the half-eaten sub sandwich I'd snarfed down on our Saturday morning walk. The stuffed hoagie had looked promising from a distance, but you don't get more than a second to think about grab-and-go-snacks when walking. Management keeps a short leash and puts a halt to the fun activity pronto.

I had the sandwich almost sucked down before Management pried open my jaws. She fished out a few bread chunks and a pickle. Discard sampling doesn't set well with Management. It didn't set well with me either.

Not even my favorite books cheered me up.

The upside? Management allowed me to sleep in the kitchen on an old quilt and I woke to the aroma of gingerbread.

Was a treat involved in my recovery? Optimism prevails with canines.

The aroma churned up memories of my old mentor Abe who once ate an entire pan of gingerbread.

In my early days at this house, the ancient hound spooked me with his white face, one blue eye, misshapen front legs and an odd eggbeater gait. And his barking---Abe had a lot to say. Somebody came home, a neighbor was lurking in her yard, the pit bulls next door were out, it's time for dinner, give me a carrot--it never quit with him. The worst was when the old coot whined about how no one understood him. Even when the other dogs barked at him to shut up, Abe barked slower and louder just to get his point across.

And Abe spooked little children with that ghostly light eye. "Is he blind?" they'd ask. If you rewarded him, he'd go either way with that answer.

I pawed through old photos to give you an idea. In most every picture Abe sits or lies down--you'd never find him working out.

I learned Abe's story from eavesdropping as I lay under the kitchen table.

Abe's story

Abe's brothers and sisters got adopted quickly and they all left for new homes, but no one wanted Abe, the puppy with one light blue eye who barked at everything. At first a hunter in Alaska said he wanted Abe but when Abe was seven weeks old, doctors discovered Abe had two holes in his heart. "No, hunting for this boy; his heart murmer won't heal," the vets said. "And it won't ever go away." One vet added, "Don't exercise him." Another had said, "Find him a good home; give him whatever he wants." The third vet agreed with the others and said Abe wouldn't live more than three years.

Management took Abe in. "What's one more basset for a few years?" the lady had said.

Abe quickly bonded with Hunter, a bitch his age who taught Abe the house rules. Hunter was Abe's muse and if you can find a dog's muse, you can learn his weaknesses. Though self-interest lurks in every dog, Abe had lots of doubts deep down, and Hunter was his security blanket.

Three years passed and Abe was still around. He'd attended dog school briefly but barked his opinions so loudly every week, it distracted the other dogs from learning. Abe dropped out of dog school without having learned a single trick, but the fact he didn't know "sit" from "come" never bothered Abe.

At age five at Abe's annual check-up, the vet said, "Murmur?" The vet had forgotten about it, and when he listened, the vet said couldn't hear any murmur, as if the diagnosis had been invented.

A few years later, Abe's annual visit to the vet revealed a lump that turned out to be mouth cancer. The vet removed it, and said it would return but that never happened, and for the next six years, Abe barked at the wind--day and night.

The Gingerbread Thief

By the time I came along, Abe had become the most skilled food thief around. The back of his crate inside was littered with food wrappers, fruit pits and used napkins. Drawers, cupboards, coffee tables, pockets, purses and bags were all at risk around Abe. I mentioned how he'd taken carrots, from the market bag as soon as it came in. The carrots were gone before Management suspected anything.

Once when scent of gingerbread wafted throughout the house, Abe strolled around like a bomb-detector dog, and he immediately pinpointed the exact location. I watched the geezer dog shove a chair closer, then with the persistence of the Terminator, Abe miraculously pulled his body onto the chair.

I couldn't believe he had it in him, but he raised up, leaned over and gobbled the gingerbread as fast as he could. He couldn't control the pan and when it crashed to the floor, Management came running in.

"Hey! Hey! Hey!" Management scolded. I could see Abe absorbing the words like wind. As Tina Fey pointed out in Bossypants: you can't be a bossypants if no one takes you seriously. (the adventure continues . . .)

The recipe

This recipe originally came from The Joy of Cooking. It was adapted with buckwheat instead of rice flour. This month is "Grains Month," at Nash's Organic Produce. You can find their ground grains at Nash's farm store in Sequim or at Seattle farmers' markets. This gingerbread recipe also includes pecans which help counterbalance the bold flavor of buckwheat.

Enjoy it with whipped cream (rice, soy or dairy), ice cream or coconut sorbet.

Buckwheat Gingerbread with Pecans
(Makes one 9 by 9 by 2-inch pan)

1 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 to 5 teaspoons ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup butter or oil
1/4 cup milk (soy, rice, dairy or buttermilk)
1 jumbo egg or 2 large eggs beaten
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Oil a 9 by 9-inch cake pan.

2. Sift all the flours, baking power, soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. In a separate bowl, combine brown sugar, molasses and butter or oil. Blend the egg with the milk and stir into the brown sugar-oil combination.

3. Combine wet and dry ingredients and stir until smooth. Mixture should be quite thick. Spread mixture into prepared cake pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Check with a toothpick. If the toothpick comes out clean, the gingerbread it done.

4. Serve with whipped cream and enjoy.

Sometimes being good for the camera is way too difficult.


Heather McMullin said...

CUTEST gingerbread thief EVER!!! Come share this fabulous recipe at my Famous Linkz Party!!

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Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Hey thanks for stopping, food is my favorite obsession. One can never have too many carrots or celery bones!

Nancy Ging said...

Sounds like you had a very special mentor, Finn. I can see how you became such a great cooking assistant!

Nancy Ging said...

Another note of possible interest which I just learned a couple of days ago. I came across a book about Bobbs-Merrill, the publishers of Joy of Cooking. They also published books by L. Frank Baum (Wizard of Oz author), and Ayn Rand books. Located in the Midwest, that single publisher put a book in nearly every household in America. Trivia, I suppose, but I think it's amazing...

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Hey that's sounds like an interesting book. I'll look for it and put it on my list at the library. And I won't say Abe taught me everything I know, but he definitely put me on the right track.

Miz Helen said...

Finn, I loved reading about you and Abe in this great post! Stay away from those ole sandwiches, yuk! The Gingerbread looks awesome and is sure something that my Jaque would enjoy, it he could get to it.

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Thanks so much for stopping by Miz Helen. I've been assisting lots of baking lately, if only the pans were left within reach.