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June 5th, 2009

Young Bakers

My daughters spent the day at a friend's house yesterday.

The mother (my friend) spent the entire afternoon on the back porch, reading, on her day off. The four children came and went from the back door of the house all day to play in the backyard, to put on swimsuits, to build forts, etc.

When my friend walked into her house to use the bathroom she said, "It smells like bread in here!"

And the response from the two 10-year-olds was, "That's because we baked some."

Indeed, a beautiful loaf of bread was cooling on the counter. They had mixed, risen, kneaded, risen, and baked a loaf of bread throughout the afternoon!

And the kitchen was clean.


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How to open a coconut

With the addition of two hamsters to our household, we decided to buy a coconut.


My husband spent many years growing up in Hawaii, presumably eating lots of coconuts. He's the coconut cracker in this household.

The kitchen was dark. My flash was overpowering. I've tried to make the photos as unoffensive as possible.

So here we go. Here is how my husband cracks a nut (!):

But wait! Did you know that coconuts growing on trees do not look like coconuts in the grocery store? The coconuts we buy in the store have already had their husks removed. A coconut on a tree is huge and barky and hairy.

Ideal tools are a long nail or screw and a small hatchet (or a hammer, or a big rock, which actually requires a lot more skill to use properly than a hammer or hatchet).

First, drive the nail deep into two of the three "eyes" on the end of the coconut. You are making one hole for pouring the milk and one hole for air.

Pour the watery "milk" into a bowl, or, if you're my husband, you'll use a knife or hatchet to scrape the worst of the coconut hair from around the holes so it's possible to drink directly from the coconut.

You may need to shake the coconut to get the milk out. You may need to enlarge the holes if it doesn't trickle out easily. You will have about 3/4 cup of coconut milk, which looks like debris strewn water and not like the stuff in cans at the store.

Next, holding the coconut in one hand, take the hammer or hatchet in the other and give a good thwack to the mid-section of the coconut. You are not trying to crack open the coconut in one thwack. That would be reckless--and dangerous, since you are holding the coconut in your hands!

Give the coconut a little turn and a thwack at its midsection again about two inches from the first thwack. Continue in this manner for quite a few full rotations of the coconut: turn a couple inches,


If you're really skilled at this, you can turn the coconut with one hand and get into a rhythm. Indeed, my children and I began a percussion routine with clapping and stomping to complement the rhythmic coconut thwacks.

About a minute passed. "Okay, this is looking unproductive," I told my husband.

"Be patient," he said.

He continued thwacking until one thwack sounded distinctly different--a dull thud instead of a sharp crack.

"Ah HAH!" he said.

He kept thwacking, turning the shell around and around, a couple inches a turn. A horizontal crack along the midline became visible. It widened as the thwacks continued.

When it looks as if the shell can be pried open, you can give it a try. Curt used the hatchet to help.

You should be left with two relatively even coconut halves.

At this point you can leave the halves to dry in the hot sun, and eventually the coconut meat (the white part) will shrink and pull away from the shell. Easy peasy.

Or. .. you can do like eager coconut consumers do, and pry the meat from the shell. This takes time, and can be awkward and frustrating. My husband is methodical. He wedges a thin knife between the meat and the shell to pull the good stuff off in chunks. Completely unhelpful photo:

The coconut meat will have a brown, shell-like backing. This is edible, and indeed should be consumed along with the coconut meat. Your mouth will not notice that it's there, and it's probably an excellent source of fiber anyway.

I was going to type here that you can strain the coconut milk and drink it, but my husband said NO to the straining part. He says to drink it straight up, bits and all.

I'm not convinced.

You can drink the milk, use it in baking, or mix it with pineapple juice to create a pina colada!

As for the shells, they're perfect for a Gilligan's Island-style bikini bra, for clacking together to create horse hoof sound effects, or. . . for making little huts for your hamsters (use a saw to cut doorways).

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What I'm Reading

Atonement by Ian McEwan

The Impossible Will Take a Little While, edited by Paul Rogat Loeb

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K.Rowling (reading to my children)

Misquoting Jesus by Bart D. Ehrman

Understanding the Bible by John A. Buehrens

The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth by Thomas Jefferson