’50s breakfasts, Maine hunger, and Fuggedaboutit Focaccia!

Breakfast, anyone? (1950s style)

697908ee_pleasantville-helping1Tobey Maguire gets the breakfast of a lifetime from his “Pleasantville” mom. Someone else’s lifetime… (movie still from Pleasantville)

I loved the movie Pleasantville. Tobey Maguire is a kid who’s hooked on reruns of “Pleasantville,” a 1950s family sitcom a la “Father Knows Best,” and somehow (I forget how) he becomes part of that old black-and-white TV family. Here’s his “mom” serving him a typical breakfast of the era (William H. Macy in the background) and, of course, he’s appalled because he traveled into this show from 50 years in the future.

In those days it was pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, gobs of butter… when this country was awash in such foods and advertising money to promote them. Inspired, but also slightly appalled, I decided I wanted to do a stock photo shoot mimicking that sort of excess, and connected with some friends whose son was none too happy to be the model.

At first, he’s repelled and horrified by what his mom is serving him —

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— but then he changes his mind and goes for it.

JaxInt0044gdBig stack, meat, syrup, butter. Perfectly balanced meal! (my photos)

Maybe they were trying to kill us back then, but it’s more likely they just didn’t know that a steady diet of eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, waffles, fake syrup and gobs of butter would gradually plug up every last artery we had. At some point, as a kid, I switched to cereal and milk, which seemed less lethal in the long run.

Yeah, but…

All of this may be slightly amusing, but I’m sure there are some looking at these photos and thinking, “hey, I could use some of that.” As the BDN recently reported food insecurity is a huge problem here, with Maine ranking as the third hungriest state in the country – after Arkansas and Louisiana. Especially vulnerable are kids and the elderly. Fortunately, we have some vigorous non-government efforts underway to help – the Good Shepherd Food Bank (a statewide food distribution network) and local efforts with food pantries and school backpack programs. In Knox, a quick shout-out to Sherry Cobb and the Area Interface Outreach, and the recently launched Knox adopt-a-backpack program, which has made a big difference for many dozens of families in this area.

Come to think of it, I recall childhood friends in the 1950s whose usual breakfast was a can of Coke and a candy bar or donut. Something wrong there…

Now to today’s special big gluten hit…

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Focaccia with rosemary – an Italian sinfonia for your tastebuds!

DSC_5959vygd copysmall(my photo)

So look, let’s get this straight about fuggedaboutit, which gets some airing in Donnie Brasco, with Johnny Depp and Al Pacino. It has several shades of meaning, but it doesn’t mean “you’re welcome,” or “don’t worry about it.” Usually (but not always) it’s in reference to something so cool, so extraordinary, so super-awesome that no further discussion is required. Here’s Depp’s character, Donnie Brasco, giving a brief tutorial in the movie.

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Which barely segues to this incredibly awesome Fuggedaboutit Focaccia with rosemary recipe. This makes a fair amount of dough for spreading in a large baking pan – you’ll end up with a bread that’s about 1 1/2 inches thick.

You’ll need:

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup warm water, about 100 degrees
  • 2 1/4 cups tepid water
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for the pan and for brushing the top of the bread
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp salt, plus coarse salt for sprinkling on the top
  • 2-3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary (can use sage or other herbs such as thyme or oregano, but whatever herb you use, do use fresh herbs, do not use dried)

What to do:

  • Stir the yeast into the 1/3 cup of lukewarmish water and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, pour in 2 1/4 cups of lukewarmish water and 2 tablespoons olive oil. After the yeast has rested for 10 minutes and has begun to froth, pour it into the water-oil mixture.
  • Now mix in 2 cups of flour (either kind of flour) and the tablespoon of salt. Add most of the rosemary.
  • Then, gradually mix in the rest of the flour (both the bread flour and all purpose) and stir with a wooden spoon. Soon youll be able to work the dough with your hands. Begin to knead it in the bowl.
  • Turn the dough out onto a board and knead it well for 8 minutes. You might need some extra flour if the dough is sticky.
  • Coat another large bowl with about a tablespoon of oil and put the dough on top of it. Spread oil all over the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to rise in a warm place. It should just about double in size.
  • Spread a little olive oil in a baking pan. Place the dough in your baking pans and stretch it out. Cover the bread with wrap or a dishtowel and set aside for another 30 minutes.
  • Dimple the breads with your thumb, roughly 1/2-inch. Cover again and leave it to rise once more about 2 hours.
  • Preheat your oven to 400°F.
  • Once the dough has done its final rise, brush the top with olive oil – as much as you want. Then sprinkle on the coarse salt and some more rosemary.
  • Put the bread in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. If you have a water spritzer bottle, spritz a little water in the oven right before you put the bread in to create steam, and then a couple of times while the bread is baking.
  • When the bread comes out of the oven, turn it out onto a rack after a few minutes. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes before cutting into squares and eating.

We serve this with an extra virgin olive oil dipping sauce, with rosemary, oregano, and pepper. Sprinkle in some Parmesan cheese is you like!

There you have it! Mangia!

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Come take a look at my four novels! Good stuff, great reviews.

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Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is a writer, novelist, crossword puzzle constructor, humorist, traveler through 49 states, and at times a danger in the kitchen. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.