ChewsWise Blog

ChewsWise Blog

In Search of the Perfect Loaf, in the Media

I've been gratified by the media attention the new book is getting and just want to make note of a few articles and interviews here.

Tim Carman of the Washington Post visited me in my home kitchen while I mixed, shaped and baked some breads and wrote about the process here, which was a bit awkward for me.

“Whenever I bake more than my usual couple of loaves, I really have to focus, because it’s not my usual routine,” Fromartz says. “Just having multiple people in the kitchen was a challenge.”

That awkward, specimen-­under-a-microscope feeling is common among journalists who find themselves on the other side of the reporter’s notebook. But the situation is compounded for Fromartz: As he explains in his brilliant new memoir/breadmaking book, “In Search of the Perfect Loaf” (Viking), “baking was the antithesis of writing, my version of chopping wood, crucial to maintaining my sanity amid the daily pressure of work. Cordoned off from writing, baking offered a brief reprieve, and for many years I sought to keep it that way.”

In some ways this book has thrust me down a new path with my baking, but still, at home, I bake quietly just as I've been doing for years.

The book, though, brought a new depth to the process and I explain some of the themes here on KPBS in San Diego.

In Search of the Perfect Loaf Gets Early Notice

Just under two months away from launch of In Search of the Perfect Loaf, reviews are starting to trickle in. Here's what Library Journal had to say in a starred review (July 1, 2014):

This impressive work falls somewhere between a cookbook, an exploration of bread-baking techniques, and a history of bread. It’s thoroughly researched and engagingly written, and his dedication is inspiring.

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The last pass of my manuscript, "In Search of the Perfect Loaf: A Home Baker's Odyssey," is done!

And I'm sending it back in the mail to Viking/Penguin. (Yeah, at this stage it's hard copy, not electronic). This is the final stage before the whole thing goes to rest. I can't believe it's over. But there have been so many of these last stages, turning in the manuscript, going over the edit, doing the second draft, etc. etc that it almost feels anticlimactic. And any remaining mistakes are now my own damn fault!

For those who are curious, the book will be out right after the summer. 

How your smart phone may be more valuable than you think

On an 8-minute video shot with a smart phone that won a film festival prize

I recently heard Carlton Evans, the director of the Disposible Film Festival, speak about “disposible films”— all the video that is made when you click open your smart phone and start shooting away.We’ve all done it, but what I didn’t realize was the possibility of the medium. Luckily, Evans and his team did and created a film festival around it.

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The warrior: a remembrance of Sol Yurick

Shortly after I heard from my mother that our close friend, the novelist Sol Yurick, had died at age 87, the obits began appearing. I was glad that Sol, the first serious writer I knew and a strong influence on me as a teenager, was getting recognition. But I was also chagrined that the obits almost exclusively focused on The Warriors, a work he wrote in 1965 about warring New York gangs based loosely on Xenophon’sAnabasis that went on to became a movie and cult hit. Sure, it was a fast read and his most popular work, filled with his requisite cast of rogues, misanthropes, disaffected youth and innocents but the gang bang work hardly defined Sol, who liked to remind people that he wrote it in all of three weeks.

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Cantaloupe from the garden, after three attempts

image from the past three years, I've tried to grow cantaloupe in my community garden plot in Washington, DC.

The first two years, I planted my seeds in late May or early June and then transplanted the plants to the garden a few weeks later. All would go well. The vines would spread on the ground, the flowers would appear, the bees would show up to help pollinate the plants, and then I'd see tiny fruit. The fruit would get bigger and bigger -- and then, I'd leave for vacation in August.

Once, I picked the fruit while still green hoping that it would ripen fully on the trip. It tasted awful. But when I left the fruit to ripen on the vine, the melons were usually half eaten by the time I returned. After all, these melons were extremely fragrant. If I were a rodent prowling the neighborhood, I'd want a bite too.

This year, I took a different approach. I planted the seeds in early April, and transplanted the seedlings in May, under row cover for warmth. I began to get fruit by June. By July, when DC was basking in 100-plus temperatures, everything was humming. 

Then I went to extreme measures. I bought a solar powered owl, which I propped up on a stake. The owl's head turns periodically (it actually freaked out my wife, who went to the garden and didn't know about the owl. She jumped when its head turned). So far I've had no pest damage. While this owl made for a helluva an expensive melon, I am enjoying my lucious, juicy and delicious fruit. And I bet it will work for my tomatoes too.

- Samuel Fromartz