It seemed appropriate today, Father’s Day, to remember the simple little things my father taught me. It’s a short list of basic things, some useful, some more trivial, but I’ve remembered these lessons all my life. Including them in this blog is my way of passing them on:
My father taught me:
How to make the sound of the wind in the pines by pursing your lips in a perfect “oh” and passing “hot air” through them. This simple sound reminds me of my childhood home. We were surrounded by hundred foot pines and a forest of hundreds more. In winter, on a windy autumn night, or ahead of a thunderstorm in summer, this was the sound we heard, and a way my father taught me to focus and let the world drift away for a bit.
How to check for studs in the wall. This was a trick my father taught me when I was two. Prior to carrying me up the stairs to my bedroom in the attic, he’d walk me around the living room, and tell me to listen. Then he’d rap sharply on the wall. “nope”….”no, not there”… and then the tell-tale change to the sound. “YES, that’s the stud.” Then he’d have me do it. It didn’t take long before I’d learned the difference in sounds, and to this day I ignore battery operated stud-finders. Instead, I make a fist, and rap on the wall… knocking along the wall at various heights until I hear the change in the sound. I know for certain it’s the right place to drive a nail for hanging a picture, or a bulletin board, or hooks for curtain rods.
And speaking of hammering a nail, my father taught me that, too. I think it was part of a girl scout badge or something. But we’d take short pieces of two by four and small carpenter’s nails and practice. At first I’d miss the nail head, or I’d bang it crooked. He’d patiently remove it from the wood and if it was past saving, we’d toss it aside and start with another. Slowly I learned to knock a crooked nail straight, but my father always beat me. After what was probably weeks of practice I started getting them in straight every time. Then we moved to hammering contests. Three strikes to get the nail all the way in. We were only using pine, so the wood was soft, and the weight of the hammer helped, but I even beat my father a few times when he’d hit a nail crooked. It happens to the best of us.
He also taught me to whistle, but told me it was something that took practice. Unlike making the sound of the wind, you had to hold your tongue just so, and everyone needed to figure out for their own mouth how to make it work. I sat flipping through the Sears and Roebuck catalog (a favorite of mine when I was very small since I didn’t walk until I was two, and usually spent a lot of time in the house) and on each page I tried to whistle. It’s a long catalog, with plenty of things to whistle at, or at least attempt to. But by the end of that afternoon, as I turned the last few pages of the catalog, out came a whistle!
And probably the most important lesson of all was teaching me to use all the colors in the crayon box. When I first started coloring I’d pick a light teal, or a bright orange or deep forest green, and that’d be my picture, all over. Perhaps I’d stay in the lines, perhaps I’d draw my own grass, but I was definitely not focused on mixing it up. My father then joined my coloring sessions. And he explained to me, when you’re coloring it’s all up to you. Yes, you can stick with one color, or use brown or black to color a person’s hair. But in fact, when you’re coloring, you’re in control. You can make the sky yellow, give the dog pink spots, and color the lady’s face green if you want. Or you can mix colors together to get an entirely different look. My mother played a part, too. She told me if you could find the combination in nature, it went together!
Anyone who knows me knows I am all about color. I wear mismatched socks, and love to mix plaids and stripes, and floral patterns with polka dots. Of course that’s when I”m just hanging out at home. Because that’s where I’m in control!
In truth there are many things my father taught me. But appreciation of simple things, like bread, and the smell of spices, are what inspired me to make this recipe for Spicy Coconut Stuffed Naan.
Peshwari Naan (Spicy Coconut Almond filling)
- 2 cups bread flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup warm milk
- 1 TB instant yeast (.25 oz)
- 1 TB honey
- 1 ½ TB melted coconut oil
- 1 egg
- 4 TB low-fat coconut yogurt (I used skyr)
- In large mixing bowl add honey to milk and stir, then add yeast and allow to set for a few minutes until foamy
- Whisk in coconut oil, honey, egg then yogurt (whisking in each addition)
- Whisk flour and salt together
- Stir in flour mixture a scoop at a time until mixed. This is a very wet dough to start, so you may want to mix with a wooden spoon. I eventually dumped it into my mixer and used the dough hook, and needed a bit more than the 2 cups of flour indicated to get it to a point where I could actually remove it from the bowl.
- When dough has blended well, turn onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (8 minutes). This is a very silky dough and when you’re done kneading you don’t want it to be wet to the touch, but also not too dry. You’ll probably need another 1/4 to 1/3 cup of flour.
- Brush with coconut oil and transfer to greased bowl, cover and leave to rise 1 – 1 ½ hours until it’s doubled in size.
- 2 TB coconut oil
- ¼ cup white sugar
- 1 tsp minced fresh ginger root
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 pinch chili powder
- ¼ cup flaked coconut
- ¼ cup sliced almonds (or pistachios or cashews)
- Mix all ingredients in a bowl. I crushed my almonds into the mixture, and you can toast your coconut beforehand if you choose. You can also add 1/4 cup chopped dried fruit (raisins, apricots, etc)
- Set aside
Continue making the naan
- Dust a large cookie sheet with flour
- Punch dough down and divide into 4 – 6 pieces. Roll each to an 8” round
- Spoon filing (about 3 TB) into middle of dough, fold edges over filling and pinch to seal. Flatten with your hand.
- Carefully roll filled dough into 8” ovals. You may need to flour your roller.
- Place onto floured baking sheet. Cover with a towel and rise for 15 minutes
- Transfer one at a time onto a pre-heated griddle on medium high heat. Allow to cook a few minutes on each side. Each side should be spotted golden brown.
- When both sides are browned, brush with unsalted butter or coconut oil, cover and set in a warm place while you cook the remaining naan.
- Serve hot
The final product! Delicious with Indian curry and jasmine rice. And then another piece for dessert!