Kneading Autonomy: Adventures in a South Floridian Food Desert

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There are many things to be happy about living in Miami, Fl rather than in New York: warm weather, close beaches, a fantastic growing season, no ridiculous snowstorms. But, one thing that has been difficult to get used to down in the southern tip of the sunshine State is the lack of food options.

Don’t get me wrong, the food situation down here isn’t all bad. There’s a fantastic spot where I can get assorted groceries and fresh produce for super cheap. And by cheap I’m talking three large bags overflowing with apples, oranges, bananas, star fruit, sugar cane, organic brown sugar, peppers of all kinds, potatoes, carrots, frozen fruit to make smoothies, mushrooms, garlic, onions, herbs of all kinds – all for under $35.

But, here is the other side of the story.

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South Florida is riddled with corporate eateries serving the latest in processed poison, commonly known as fast-food. Finding decent cheese for less than $10 a hunk in this sprawling city is a challenge, and – getting to the heart of the matter – locating a decent loaf of bread is practically impossible.

Enter the bread machine:

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About a year ago my life-saver of a sister bought me a bread machine for the holidays. She also got me a breadbox and a nice recipe book. Admittedly the machine saw limited use in New York where artisan bakeries are tucked into so many corners of all five boroughs. But, down here it has been – well, a life-saver. We found a flour supplier in our neighborhood who sells 50lbs bags of numerous grains for generally under $20. Then we got a large supply of organic yeast from an online vendor for another $20. VoilĂ : a supply of awesome bread for several months, all under $50!

Most people hear the phrase “make bread” and cringe because of the perceived difficulty, but it has been pretty simple. To say the least: making bread with the bread machine is rather anti-climactic. You find a recipe, put in the ingredients, push a few buttons – choose your loaf size, type and how dark you want the crust – and then you press “start”. The whole experience makes me think I waded in a kiddie pool and then exclaimed to the world “I’m a great swimmer!”. Luckily, I just graduated from the kiddie pool and swam indoors – under the supervision of a lifeguard.

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The last loaf I made was supposed to follow the normal routine – dull and boring with a fantastically yummy outcome. But, this time when I looked at the instructions to find out what crust darkness to set and what bread-type to choose I realized my error: I chose a loaf where the bread machine just prepares the dough, and then I have to do the rest of the work! Curses, Harper’s Loaf!

In the end, this was an awesome – yet time-consuming – experience. I shaped the dough how I wanted, making two boules and one braided loaf. I let the dough rise, and then sprinkled on sesame seeds and oats before throwing it all into the oven. The outcome was delicious, and I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as we all enjoyed eating them!

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