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A Note from Marcy

Russian Black Bread & Russian Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup – for the hearty
Zesty Italian Minestrone With Panchetta & Italian Hearth Bread – for the paesan
My Favorite Cream of Leek Soup & French Crusty Rolls – for the sophisticated
Restaurant Style Chicken Vegetable Soup & Old-Fashioned White Bread -  for traditional values
Carrot Ginger,Cilantro and Orange Soup & Fresh Hot Pita Breads – for the vegetarian gourmet
Beer or Red Wine Beef Stew in a Bread Bowl & Edible Bread Bowls for the waste not, want not, eater

For subscribers, time to start your  asap!

October 2004 Regular Issue Recipes

!! Our Free-for-All Monthly Bonus Recipe!!!
Plus….Fried Dough From the Field of Dreams

The Splitter A Fried Hotdog That is Sumptuous!
Big Red Candy Mountain Candy Apples
Caramel Popcorn

Fall Classic Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Diner Style Old Fashioned Brown Sugar Oatmeal Apple Crisp
Double Apple Old Time Country Apple Pie
Atwater Market Stuffed Olive Coil Bread  
  

Refrigerator Bran Muffins

Welcome to the Field of Dreams Issue *
* Special dedication below

Dear Fellow Bakers and Friends of BetterBaking.Com,

I know, I know -  where is the heartwarming BB cover of autumn apples or funky pumpkins? Isn’t it Canadian Thanksgiving, Succoth, and Halloween? Yes, assuredly. But on the occasion of the World Series approaching, the recent induction of the Jewish Major Leaguers into the Cooperstown Hall of Fame, and tearful farewell to ‘nos amours’, our Montreal Expos, a baking tip of the cap is in order. My ode to the boys of summer follows below. Some other matters of business:

Please visit www.Clabbergirl.com for my feature and recipes from the Cooperstown Jewish Major Leaguers event in They Came, They Played Ball, Now Let’s Eat. Also, visit http://jewishmajorleaguers.org/crdst/the_card_set.htmlwww.Celebrate350.org.

Baking Classes at BB Test Kitchens

As always, the BB test kitchens are in full gear. My Bread Class for October 3rd is full and another flight for bread bakers is being planned, due to demand. If you are in the Montreal area and would like to attend a cozy, baking Sunday, email editors@betterbaking.com for details. Courses, when held, are on Sundays, 1-3 pm. 

The Field of Dreams Issue of BB Essay

Tales from the dugout, with love from the diamond......

I am the first to confess that I know very little of baseball stats, the players, the heroes (beyond their names and odd associated facts, historical or game related). I learned about baseball more through osmosis via father/daughter bonding. We did not play pitch and catch in the backyard. Instead, I spent umpteen Sunday afternoons of my youth, hanging around my dad, as lots of little girls are wont to do (until they hit 11 3/4 years), watching baseball. Can’t say I appreciated what made him so het up about the game but I liked just spending time around him. As a youngest, only girl, to two older brothers, there never seemed to be enough time so baseball Sundays was one guaranteed oasis.  I recall asking my dad once, as we watched a dramatic pause, at full count in a Yankees Dodgers game, why, in heaven’s name, did the pitcher just not throw as hard as he could and the batter just hit as hard as he could. “You don’t get it, said my dad, patiently and with a slight smile, ‘it’s about strategy. It’s a duel. It’s psychology’.

Well, in time I did sort of get it and then forgot about that I got it. I abandoned baseball Sundays for baking, books and boys. Until one day, it suddenly I had three boys of my own and because of them, the diamond courted me back.

At first, I put my first-born son in swimming. Fiasco. Then we tried gymnastics and then soccer. Ever notice how the eldest kid is the test drive sibling? Only hockey worked out and Jonathan became a stellar goalie. I was a less than civilized hockey parent I suppose, always the first on at the boards when any of the opposing players went anywhere near my son once the whistle blew and he was down in the crease. I would see those nicking hockey sticks poke away at him and became something of a pit bull. Once somebody did have to hold me from jumping over the boards. It was Jonathan's are-you-insane?glare which was sufficient to curtail my mother tigress gene for years to come.

At any rate, none of these sports seem to ignite either passion nor mastery and one day, simply because hockey only took care of winter exercise, and summer in Montreal is short, sweet and hot and sports are cool, one day, I took my then 7 year old son to a baseball tryout. The minute I took one breath of that heady Eau de April perfume, you know that scent: mud, water, mush, grass, and promise of new things - I remembered, with a jolt: I missed and adored baseball! I loved and missed my dad but alongside that gap was a legacy I never knew. That legacy came flooding back in a second. We had found our sports niche. Our family would be a baseball family.

Jonathan’s first game was less than a Disney film and frankly, while earnest, he was not terrific. But he loved the game, as I did, and his younger brothers who watched him (when not falling through the wood bleachers which is every toddler's delight and every spectator parent's nightmare). I learned to score keep and quickly realized, that it is easier to memorize the Old Testament backwards then it is to know all of baseball’s rules. I watched my son play right field, and right bench for two summers until I complained about his lack of time on the field and chronic assignment in right field.

 “You moms all complain but you never DO anything’, was the reply from his coach. That fired me up and the following summer, I did something. I volunteered to be an assistant coach with some father I would be assigned to.  At the very least, I felt I could change the way things were done by working away at the order of things (oh woe, politics in sports, amateur and pro) from the inside out.

At that first baseball draft I attended, there were some 60 male coaches and I. I had not a clue how a player draft went and out of the hoards of kids’ names on the roster, each with these numerical markings I ignored the way I do baking instructions, I simply chose boys whose names were familiar. I was thinking: social. Who knew those numbers were skill levels! Each time, I made a pick – the men in the room chuckled. In the end, it turned out there were insufficient coaches and I was asked to step up to the plate, as it were, and be a head coach.

My first team was uneven, imbalanced in talent and skills and mostly, we lacked a competent, experienced coach but we had spirit and spunk. Some teams mocked the Marlins, with our vibrant turquoise uniforms and the ‘mom’ coach but we did a bit of alright. Games that summer always could have gone our way or the other team’s way but somehow, call it luck or destiny, the games went our way and we ended up, after playoffs, in a respectable second place. I still remember picking up Benjamin, then 5 years old, in my arms, in the dug out after the final playoff game, and taking him to the mound to congratulate my pitcher. I used to post signs in our dugout, near my line up, which said: If we win, we go to Pizza Hut. If we lose, we can still go to Pizza Hut.

We had player of the game, most improved player, and play of the game – each game. I had gumballs with baseball sayings, fresh cookies, fried dough, and baseball quizzes. The standing joke in the community was that by summer’s end (I went on to coach for nine years) “Marcy’s teams are so well fed, they can’t run the baseline in any reasonable time nor steal third to home”. 

I became adept at cajoling the umpires, out-psyching the other coaches and niggled  over silly points and obtuse technicalities, upset the rhythm of the game or the other’s teams momentum. I learn to take note of a quickly setting sun, remember what inning it was and how many pitchers I had left, and what part of my line up was coming up or what part of theirs. I yelped out clipped things like ‘meat of the order’ and shout ‘eat it’ to my catcher before they could waste a throw to second. It became second nature to know what park/what backstop it was, to remember whether a certain field had lights or not, when it was before curfew in July, and remember, which kid, hit left and could be a threat with his consistent double. I figured out that you could put a less strong player on lst base where he could feel like a hero and cover for him with a good pitcher and second base man. I learned to put a poor batter at the beginning of the line up where he would feel noticed and special and see that result in extra effort and an unexpected hit.

My favorite experience? That calling of time, and that measured walk out to the mound to talk to my pitcher and calm him down, signaling in the catcher. It called for a steadiness I never knew I had and gave me more poise than anything else I have ever done. What do you say to a skittish pitcher who is throwing away the game? You say: you are fine. Just relax. Be with me. Watch the catcher. Play ball. And then you walk away as if you have told him some sort of magic….which is often must be because those 20 seconds is all it takes to turn things around.

I am no baseball maven. I still don’t know the plays in anything but the most obvious situations. But I learned how to lead a team to victory – even when it did not believe it could even get on the scoreboard. I saw teams that were talentless but had heart and teams that were all talent and posturing and no heart. I can hit reasonably well but still throw like a girl. I still cannot, even after almost a decade of coaching, lift the team bag by myself.

I would like to say the teams I have had recall my unerring, steady navigation in the dugout and on the field but most remember my baking. Still, I held my own and the biggest satisfaction has been in seeing kids improve and not only my sons, but also other people’s sons and daughters get that chance to get off the bench and out of right field.

Baseball is unlike other sports. The first thing baseball folks will tell you is that it is the only sport where the defense as the ball. It is the only sport where the supposed captain, the pitcher, has his back to the field. But the true captain is the stoic catcher, who sees the entire game unfold.

Unlike other pro sports, baseball did not begin in an arena or indoors. It began on the farm, in the fields. It was every man’s sport. The equipment was minimalist and it was an equal opportunity athletic employer. You do not need to tower to be a good ball player - you can be wiry or heft, 20 or 35 and play pretty good ball.

Unlike other sports, baseball’s heroes are with us for decades, in some cases. Sure, players are traded but they are with the sport, and with us, for many years. Except for the catcher, their faces are not hidden by equipment and every human emotion is plain as ESPN camera can catch it. Yes, the baseballs are no longer hand stitched, cell phones from bullpen to dugout are the new way, and computers measure every pitch and calculate probability but nothing seems to dim the overall magic and heritage.

While other sports have gotten rougher, uglier, and more violent, baseball (and curling) is still not known for chronic body checking nor extreme physical damage. The worse you see is most often middle aged men (the umps) threatening to duke it out with other middle aged men (the team manager). And what other sport does the manager and coaches wear the team uniform with their team players?

Now, I am not saying baseball is perfect. It has neglected some things, and been wholly insensitive to others. It has let us down at times; and let itself down. It is human in all ways. But it is also a sport that in my view, is the level playing field for human drama, politics, and the strength of the human spirit, like no other sport. It is a team sport; it is the sport of a loner. It is about a bat and ball and some guys on a green field; it is about money and greed; it is about youth, aging gracefully and the hope of eternal summer of the spirit. On its best days, it is about fairness and miracles – fairness in just umping, healthy players, and miracles, when, on any given day, you can beat the stats and challenge the skies. Anything, as they say, in baseball, is possible.

Baseball has inspired Broadway (Damn Yankees and Take Me Out), books galore (Shoeless Joe, The Natural) and movies (where do we begin? So many! A League of Their Own, Eight Men Out, Major League, Mr. Baseball, Little Big League, Angels in the Outfield, Rookie of the Year, The Scout, Bull Durham, among a ton of possibilities) and poetry (Mudville) and comedy (Who’s On First, etc.).  I even wrote my own kids' novel, Nine Innings, in tribute to a southpaw pitcher, my son Gideon. No other sport has had so much collective tribute, in fields beyond its own.

I love baseball for its longevity and the way it has of making a short summer a longer affair. I love the smell of the field, the baseball mitts that are oiled and pressed under the sofa in my living room. I love the thermoses, the forgotten batter’s gloves and the gleaming aluminum bats that lie idle all winter, quietly waiting for another season, never minding the boys are growing up, confident, as baseball bats are, that their owners will never forget them.

More than all this, I don’t think I have ever played or watched a game where I also did not feel my father’s presence and kind gaze, as the grandsons he never got to see or know, made the diamond their own. 

My dad's unwitting blessing was the gift of baseball Sundays, which was bestowed from him to his daughter to a trio of brothers who, at 12, 16, and 19, can still spend hours practicing their rundown. You know that scene in Field of Dreams where Kevin Costner plays toss with his dad – and the two men, albeit father and son, are caught in time, playing ball as equals and peers, with one more opportunity to do something ordinary against that backdrop of extraordinary love? That is the baseball scene that for me that captures the most unspoken of powerful bonds. 

Each spring, throughout summer and these days, with the advent of Fall Ball which extends baseball in the 'burbs into Indian summer, when I am not baking, reading Jane Austen in the hammock, you can usually find me in one park or another, or leaving one, driving to another park, another game for another son. How lucky can a girl get? There’s usually sun, there’s coffee, there’s community, and mostly, and most notably, it’s where the boys are.
All of ‘em.

Wishing you fair umping, calls that go your way, perfect baseball weather, and extra innings in all you do,

Marcy Goldman
Writer, Wheat Siren, Baking Mother, Baseball Coach
www.BetterBaking.com
1997-2005

The Field of Dreams Baking Issue of BetterBaking.com is dedicated:

To the volunteer coaches and parent coaches, in baseball and all sports, the world over. Their contributions are often unsung and more often than not, life altering in a positive way. For every pat on the shoulder of every kid, those spirit has grown immeasurably because of it.

Dedicated to our beloved, departing Montreal Expos, with the warmest thanks from their fans (hey DC, take care of our boys!).  Dedicated to the memory of Jackie Robinson, of the Montreal Royals, who honored this city with his performance on and off the field.

Dedicated to the newly established Jewish Major Leaguers Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, New York, August 29-30, 2004. Mazel tov and play ball.

Dedicated to the MLB owners but anyone associated with organized baseball that may have forgotten what it is all about and who it is for. May they endeavor to remember the love of the game.

Especially dedicated to the fathers and older brothers and anyone else who has spent hours, often years, pitching to some young hopeful, in some backyard, open field or vacant lot, ignoring a twilight sun and calls for supper...To the audible thunk of the ball, as it gets tossed back and forth, and its steady rhythm of faith and dreams. To each tightly sewn, red-stitched baseball, those seams are taut with indelible memory.

 


Previous Monthly Essays from A Note From Marcy:

Essays to tickle your funny bone, wake up your inner baker, twinge on your heartstrings, or make you smile and say, Ive know the feeling; I know the place. If you missed an essay, or a season in baking or inner sensibility, we invite you to stroll through our archived Notes From Marcy.

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