Matte’s Blog

Mother’s Rolls

The only thing that could save us from a slow death by global warming would be the arrival of Chicxulub II.

One of my favorite columnists at the San Francisco Chronicle, Caille Millner, wrote the other day about trying with incomplete success to make her mother’s pie crust, ending up with one she described as “adequate”. This set me off. It’s a slippery slope to try to make some dishes as good as they were made by the previous generation, but first let’s count the successes.

Pie crust.  I finally managed to make one pretty much as good as my mother’s a number of years ago, just about the time that I got seduced by recipes for desserts other than pies.

Cornbread. I’ve managed to tweak my mother’s cornbread recipe to be better than hers although every time I say this I worry about being struck by lightening.

I gave up several years ago trying to make dumplings that got even close to those airy clouds bobbing in a sea of chicken stock that Aunt Sara made.  Something about the touch, I think.

My project now is to bite the bullet and again try to make my mother’s legendary yeast rolls.  I tried to make them for a decade or so when she was still compos mentis. I started with working along with her in her kitchen so as to learn how, tried making them in my kitchen alone, and finally tried them again with her at my elbow when she was here for a visit.  They rose just fine in her kitchen, but they never rose right prior to baking in mine and were thus miserable failures.  That was thirty years ago.

Just a few years ago I was struck in a flash with a reason for their failure to rise:  my kitchen in San Francisco is something like twenty degrees cooler in all seasons than hers in the piney woods of east Texas.  See, in the summertime she set the thermostat to a balmy 80 degrees, which was comfortable for her, and just left the thermostat there in the winter so she wouldn’t get a chill. Sometimes she cranked it higher because she could look out the window and see the birds shivering.

So what I need to do is turn the little electric bathroom heater to low, stick it in my walk-in closet, and close the door to create a warm environment for rising.  Alas, fear that this last solution might fail has kept me from trying it until Caille’s column rekindled my desire to make those rolls.  If it works this time, I’ll cook them for others; but I’ll give them a new name: Closet Rolls.

Meanwhile, speaking of rolls, here’s the Rainbow Roll at Sushi Zone.

Sushi Zone's Rainbow Roll

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  1. ckm3
    Posted 7 December 2013 at 09:18 | Permalink

    For most people, what stays in Las Vegas is the money.

    Most excellent turning of the phrase

    • Matte Gray
      Posted 7 December 2013 at 14:26 | Permalink

      Many thanks.

  2. Chimpus_Dorkus
    Posted 21 December 2013 at 19:59 | Permalink

    Ouch. Poor bb, here’s hoping you have some good holidays etc to cheer you up and a speedy recovery.
    Be careful, will ya?!?

    • Matte Gray
      Posted 21 December 2013 at 20:50 | Permalink

      The holidays are most definitely cheerful, the recovery is progressing apace, and the caution level has been dramatically increased.

  3. Posted 24 January 2014 at 12:08 | Permalink

    Thank you for remembering Barry. And for loving him, as I did. I am glad he got to see a loving face before he died. You are right, he wanted to go out on his terms and it was never going to be pretty. Barry, even though he’d be cleaned up, was always disappointed after falling or having a heart attack, being picked up by ambulance, treated and then dumped right back onto the streets… He gave up hope for a place indoors after realizing that even that level of frailty was not enough to deserve housing in this city. he did admit to me he would have preferred to live inside. As you said, he was not crazy. 🙂 Again, thanks for the love and kindness you and others showed him. I know he appreciated it.

    • Matte Gray
      Posted 24 January 2014 at 12:26 | Permalink

      Since i wrote that account i’ve been back to the makeshift shrine several times and have talked with folks who knew him longer than i, people who were also there the afternoon before he died and to whom he also expressed very clearly that he did not want to go to the hospital. Some of the people who knew him better are organizing a little wake for him on the 1st of February, and i’ll post more details here as i learn them. Meanwhile, a useful resource is, with an article on 22 Jan that has extensive comments.

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