Monday, December 29, 2008

Amish Friendship Bread--Chain Mail as Food!

If you've read my blogs for awhile--or if you just know me--you know my low opinion of those "forward me" e-mails that never seem to die. You know--the kind that beseech you to pass it on to 5 or 10 or 50 of your "closest" friends--but only if you truly love them? The gift that keeps on cursing!

Little did I know that the Amish have their own low-tech version of the "forward to your friends" curse.

At after-Mass fellowship early in December, Rob brought over a bag full of dough and a sheet of paper: Amish Friendship Bread.

"Thought you might like to try it. Could be fun," he said.

Warning bells should have gone off. After all, was he going to make the bread? Was he going to clean up afterwards? Did he read the instructions? But no, naïve and trusting, I thought, "Sounds neat," and took the little bag of trouble home.

And actually, it was kind of fun. For five days, all you do is squish the bag. Kind of takes you back to when you were a kid and got to play with dough--only not as messy. Day five, you add more ingredients and continue to squish the bag for five days more. (And of course, realize that I have not read ahead in the directions.)

Day ten, they drop the bomb--or, to keep it Amish, swing the scythe.

Now you pour the bag into the bowl, add more ingredients and separate out four more bags of the stuff to give your friends!

It's a chain letter with food guilt!

It gets better: The instructions for actually making the bread are more complex than any I've worked with in a long time--with 11 ingredients, plus the starter. One of the ingredients is Instant Vanilla Pudding! (So much for being Amish. Or did they take pity on us "gentiles"? So Amish women really make vanilla pudding from scratch just to toss into this bread recipe?)

I was a sport. I made the bread. It's not bread. It's dessert! It's so wonderful, it's almost sinful. If I'd been on a diet, it would have ruined it totally. I decided to save one bag of starter for myself and give the other three away.

Did I mention that most of my friends are long-distance? By the end of the week, I'd only managed to find two victims--er, friends--and those were the boys' teachers, who would never turn down such a loving gift from such a sweet face. (The boys', not mine.) Meanwhile, squish, squish, squish.

Christmas rolled around, and I still had two bags of the stuff. I decided to go ahead and do a mega-bake-off, cook the entire contents of one and split the other. I'd give folks a completed bread and the starter and the instructions--with the additional instruction of "If you don’t want to hassle, just toss it. I won't be offended!"

That was three days ago. I've managed to give one bag away.

Which reminds me. I'd better go squish the dough.

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