Friday, June 29, 2018

Novel Food #33 (summer edition): Bread

I make my living reading books, all non-fiction, so having a few stolen moments to enjoy a novel is, well, novel.

A friend had recommended A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles.  I put my name on the library's waiting list, and after months and months, it was finally my turn.  I had just three weeks to squeeze in a 400+ page book!

A few other friends had only made it as far as the second page, then put it aside, but I persevered, and was well rewarded.

The primary character is Count Rostov, who has been declared a Former Person by the new Bolshevik regime, and placed under house arrest/exile in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow.  Additionally, he is forced to move from his suite to a 100 square foot room at the top of the hotel.  The novel is an account of the Count's philosophical acceptance and survival during the decades that follow.  In the hotel, he makes friends with and becomes part of the staff, and also makes friends with various hotel visitors.  Food is a part of the scenario, especially since the Count eventually becomes Head Waiter. 

Occasionally, a long-time friend stops by, and during one particular visit, this friend is visibly upset because changes have been requested to his manuscript on Chekhov, a passage relating to bread.  Years later, the friend leaves a book in the Count's care, a collection of literary passages about bread.

Since I am a bread baker, that was what I had to make.

I chose a bread that I make on a weekly basis:  a simple no-knead bread that is proofed overnight, then baked in a piping hot Dutch oven.  Each time I make this bread, I make small changes.  For this iteration, I added emmer flour, sesame seeds, and nigella seeds.  The resulting bread had a nutty flavor and a nice, open crumb.

The original recipe can be found here.  It can also be found in Book 3 of Good Eats.

I should say that I enjoyed the book, and was a bit sad when I finished it.  Because I studied Russian and Russian history in college, names and locations were also familiar, so perhaps that made a difference.  I hope that you, fellow reader, will give this sweet novel a try.

Whenever I have the opportunity, I do my best to participate in Simona's Novel Food event.  Find information on the latest edition on her blog.  She will post a roundup in the next few days.


Simona Carini said...

I love A Gentleman in Moscow, so am glad you persevered. I got it as a audio book as a gift and my initial difficulty was with the concentration needed to listen to the book: so different from reading it. It's been my companion on longish drives and I also will be sorry when it ends. Count Rostov, Nina, Sofia, Emile, Andrey, and all the other characters were almost passengers in the car. Yes, the famous Chekov's passage! Very nice choice of recipe. Thank you for contributing to Novel Food :)

Simona Carini said...

Addendum (and maybe you already know this): Kenneth Branagh will be Count Rostov in the TV movie

Debra Eliotseats said...

I just heard about this book and I love Kenneth B. so I am sooooo excited about her last comment, too. I am going to have to get a hold on this at the library.

Delaware Girl Eats said...

I'm not so familiar with this author, or with Moscow for that matter, so will have to try

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I have been toying with getting this one, you've tipped the scale!
Nice bread too!

Elizabeth said...

Okay Okay! You've convinced me. I'll try reading Amor Towles' A Gentleman in Moscow again.

Your bread looks fabulous. (I love nigella seeds in bread!)