Way back in the day, as a wee California hippie child of the 70's - I was sent off for a week of overnight summer camp. I had been to a few bummer summer camps before this, and I wasn't at all sure that I would enjoy it... but as it turned out, I completely fell in love with this special summer camp and returned every summer for many years.
The camp, called Hidden Villa, really changed my life. It was at Hidden Villa that I first met farm animals. In fact, it was my experiences at camp that eventually turned me into a vegetarian at age 14.
Every day we each had different chores to do around the farm. We had to feed the pigs, pick veggies from the veggie garden, care for the chickens, milk the cows (not vegan!), tend to the goats and sheep... I have always loved animals so much, and this camp was such a dream come true for me. I also made a lot of human friends at camp each summer - and I have a lot of nice memories of fun things I did with the other campers. But, truth be told, those memories really just don't compare to the strength and intensity of the memories I have of my time with the animals.
Getting to spend all day with so many special animals felt like heaven on earth. We got to take horse back riding lessons, which I enjoyed and which - to this day - makes me feel so comfortable around horses. I remember especially loving the time after the horseback riding lessons were over -- where we took off their saddles and rubbed the sweaty horses with a curry brush and they seemed so grateful for it. I loved having a chance to be so caring and kind toward such huge animals.
I was a little bit afraid of the pigs - partly because they were really HUGE and noisy (all that snorting!), but also because there were always lots of wasps or yellow jackets around the pig troughs, and I was really scared of those little guys.
My favorite chore of all was milking the cows. Nowadays, as a vegan, I have conflicted feelings about these memories... but for me it was all about the love of the cows. What I loved most of all was resting my face on the cow's huge belly while I sat on my little stool. The cows were warm and kind and huge, and they took big breaths in and out - so with my small head resting on their vast rib cage, I would feel those big breaths with my whole body. A combination of great gentleness and massive power.
One year, when I was a young teen, one of the cows was stolen from the camp (who does that?!), during the time that I was there. His name was Bart and he was a special cow that many of us had known since he was a tiny little calf. I decided right then and there that I would never eat beef again, because I didn't want to accidentally end up eating my friend Bart. It wasn't long before I decided to stop eating all meat. The friendships and deep companionship I felt with the animals at camp really sealed the deal for me. I have such strong memories of feeling at peace in their presence.
kneading kneading kneading
One of the other chores, which I haven't mentioned yet - but that I vividly remember, was being in charge of making the bread for dinner. There would be a team of us kiddos, who with the help of the counselors, were in charge of mixing, rising, and kneading the dough for the evening's dinner. I remember it so clearly! All the kneading and kneading and kneading.
So, in honor of my special summers at Hidden Villa Camp... I decided to make my own bread from scratch. In an effort to be extra authentic, I went looking for a whole wheat bread recipe from one of my older cookbooks. Finally I found a recipe for Whole Wheat Bread in the Enchanted Broccoli Forest that had the air of authenticity!
mixing the sponge...
... after the first rise
Add in some whole wheat flour and molasses and oil, knead for "15-20 minutes" (???) and set to rise again...
...twice as big and looking like a seriously dense situation.
Split in two, and set to rise AGAIN. It looks like seitan! It looked so dense and heavy, I wasn't very hopeful at this point, but forged ahead anyway, just for a sense of completion.
and then - voila!
Look at that! Two beautiful, dense loaves of hearty Whole Wheat Bread. Actually, it's so delicious!! And, just like I hoped, it completely tastes like the sort of whole wheat bread that I had at camp every summer - long before the days of no-knead artisanal breads. The flavor of this loaf is slightly sweet from the molasses, chewy, and robust. I actually I really love it.
I had a couple of pieces right away when the bread was fresh out of the oven. Now the rest has been sliced and frozen, so I can have a toasted piece for breakfast in the mornings... just to bring back the flavors of my childhood, and the flavors of camping with all my animal friends.