Chickens & Violins

In 2007, concert violinist Joshua Bell played several Bach pieces on a multi-million dollar violin to disinterested passerby at the DC Metro in the United States. The event was part of a social experiment conducted by The Washington Post and was documented in Gene Weingarten’s Pulitzer Prize-winning article, “Pearls Before Breakfast.”

If Bell’s playing was the unnoticed pearl, this would’ve most certainly been the breakfast. Simple, overlooked, had a million times before yet never quite like this. Given my usual breakfast experiences, it would be hard not to be impressed, but I still insist it was better than the ordinary (well-cooked) fare. At the time, I wanted to shout from the treetops how good this one was (one of the best I’ve ever had), but I was the only person in the Deli. Maybe 8:30 was a little early?

The breakfast was part of a bread baking workshop weekend I attended at Boschendal, a wine estate that found its start more than than 300 years ago.

In 1685 King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes, leading to the persecution of Protestants in France. A fleeing, Huguenot family founded Boschendal in the Drakenstein area, and the estate saw some of the first viticulture in the region. The farm changed hands several times over the centuries, and at one point was even owned by the infamous Cecil John Rhodes. Rhodes turned Boschendal into Rhodes Fruit Farms during the the 1880s when phylloxera wiped out the world’s vineyards.  It eventually settled into the multipurpose farm and cozy vacation spot it is today, with cute cottages named after fruit.

My cottage had a rather promiscuous-looking pear hanging above the fireplace. It reminded me a lot of Man Ray’s famous photograph, Le Violon d’Ingres, so it seemed violins were turning into the theme for the weekend.

Their rooster also seemed to have caught the musical motif; he stood at the Deli’s door and crowed for a solid five minutes during breakfast. I didn’t mind it much. They say the writer Laura Ingalls Wilder got her start as a poultry columnist. Perhaps chickens have good book vibes. They most certainly had good eggs.

There wasn’t much time to admire the plumage, because I can’t even begin to describe the crazy schedule of kneading and folding and flipping that was Day 2 of the workshop. Unlike the first lesson (which took place in the afternoon), Day 2’s lesson was right in the fray of the bakery’s daily schedule, so we got the full experience of how hectic a busy bakery can be.

Despite the craziness, I must say, I’m pretty proud of my baguette. The second loaf from the top (the one with three slashes), it turned out really tasty and wasn’t too bad looking either. The ciabatta was the most fun to make, though an over-enthusiastic flip at the last moment made mine a bit lopsided (my loaf is bottom left).

Personally, I think it had too much influence from the promiscuous pear.