Hello, friends and neighbors!
Sorry that this blog has lately become biweekly- I've lately been planning to pull off a big redesign. I'm not quite ready to unveil it just yet, but when I do... oh it's going to be worth it. Trust me.
That said, everyone needs heroes.
When I started trying to get fit, I had a notion of what I wanted to do and how I wanted to look- but I had never been an athlete before. I didn't have any sports posters, or athletes I idealized. Sports were never a big part of my life, let alone bodybuilding or fitness.
What I did have, however, was literature, movies, and comic books.
The hell with Michael Jordan- I wanted to be unstoppable like Juggernaut. I wanted to run like the Flash. I wanted to throw a punch like Bruce Lee, lift like Superman, and be as precise and flawlessly skilled as Batman. When I exercised, I wanted Rocky Balboa beside me, and when I ran a race, it was against Umslopogaas the Zulu warrior.
We all need heroes- people and characters to inspire and enable us.
Here's some of mine.
The BHB's A-Team
1. Sun Wukong (a.k.a. Son Goku, The Monkey King)
Fictional character from the Chinese epic "Journey to the West" by Wu Cheng'en
Sun Wukong is my favorite example of having everything, and losing it through foolishness. A divinely-born stone ape, Monkey attained immortality and superhuman powers through nurturing himself physically and spiritually. He then let his power go to his head, made war against heaven, and wound up trapped beneath a mountain for 500 years. Eventually, he was freed and found redemption through humility and helping others. For his good works, he even attained Buddhahood, earning the name "Buddha Victorious in Strife."
Every time I read Journey to the West, besides laughing at Monkeys antics and adventures, I learn again that strength only matters for what you do with it, that nothing worthwhile comes without effort, but that "Nothing on Earth is difficult- it is only our minds that make it so!
Fictional character from H. Rider Haggards "Allan Quatermain" novels.
Steeped as they are in imperialism, colonialism, and all the exploitative racial thinking of the Victorian Era, the Allan Quatermain novels still introduced us to the "lost world" adventure narrative. They also offered us a character possessing absolute nobility and quiet strength. No, not Quatermain- rather his sometime companion, the Zulu chief Umslopogaas.
An old warrior, wielding his beloved axe, Umslopogaas saw himself as inferior to no one, and superior only to those he deemed dishonorable. Any man who underestimated him based on his race would be met with dispassionate regard, and often a sort of dry humor.
My favorite moment for him comes at the end of the book "Allan Quatermain." After having fought in a massive battle the day before, running through the night (keeping pace with a galloping horse the entire way,) and only sleeping for a few hours, Umslopogaas awakes and knows he must fight again against incredible odds:
"... The hour has come for us, old hunter. So be it: we have had our time, but I would that in it I had seen some more such fights as yesterday's. 'Let them bury me after the fashion of my people, Macumazahn, and set my eyes towards Zululand."
Besides physical prowess and phenomenal endurance, to me Umslopogaas embodies absolute nobility and dignity. He represents the confidence of quiet strength- a person that lets his actions speak for his character and ability, rather than bragging about them.
3 + 4. Teddy Roosevelt and T.E. Lawrence (a.k.a "Lawrence of Arabia")
How you start in life does not dictate how you live it. Here are two men, born sickly or disadvantaged, who proved to be more than their worlds predicted.
Teddy Roosevelt was born to a wealthy and well-connected family, but with debilitating asthma. Against expectations, he took to the outdoor life and exercised vigorously. A rancher, a hunter, a policeman, and a naturalist, Teddy resigned from a comfortable desk job under the secretary of the Navy to form the Rough Riders and fight in the Spanish-American War. While campaigning for his "Bull Moose" progressive party, Roosevelt was shot in the chest just before he was to give a speech. The bullet went through his steel eyeglass case and the 50-page speech in his pocket before lodging itself in his chest muscle. Roosevelt declined to be taken to the hospital, and proceeded to give a 90-minute speech before allowing himself to be treated.
Lawrence was born with a sort of megacephaly (a larger head and scrawny body) and also took to strenuous exercise and rigorous- often dangerous- self-imposed endurance trials. He would test himself against sleeplessness by staying up for days at a time. He would fast to test himself against hunger, and would regularly challenge himself against extreme heat and cold. Supposedly, in his youth, Lawrence could run a 7-minute mile barefoot.
In the lives of both men, I learn that the circumstances of your birth need not define you, and that you certainly do not have to live the life that others expect of you.
5. Bruce Lee
C'mon, he's f***ing BRUCE LEE. Through intense training, studying disciplines of both East and West, and single-minded dedication, Bruce Lee became a martial arts legend, developing his own style, Jeet Kune Do.
While anyone could stand to learn from Lee's physical training, dedication, perseverance, I personally learn most from his adaptability. Unwilling to be constrained by concepts of "discipline," "school," or nationality, he studied widely and voraciously- borrowing what he liked, putting aside what he didn't, and combining it all into a form all his own.
These were some of my heroes- who are yours? Who do you see coaching you when you work out, or standing at your shoulder when you struggle?
As she was running out the door for work Monday morning, Emily made a request:
"Hun, think you could make some bannocks that I can grab for breakfast? No raisins or anything- just plain is fine."
Jokes aside, I didn't mind. Bannocks are one of my staple recipes for a reason. They are a perfect blend of oatmeal cookie and biscuit that can be grabbed quickly, keep for a long time, and are an ideal breakfast with a quick schmeer of butter or jam.
Bannocks have been around for centuries, a catch-all description being, "Bannock is a variety of flat quick bread or any large, round article baked or cooked from grain."
The ones I make are at least partially inspired by the smaller, dry, trail ration variant that was popular among settlers and explorers alike for their easily portable ingredients, ease in making over a campfire, long shelf-life, and the fact that these little pucks of carbs had a tendency to blow up in your stomach after you drank some water, and thereby helped you feel full for quite a while. There was even a simple recipe that Lord Baden-Powell included in the first few editions of "Scouting for Boys"- the original Boy Scout Handbook.
It may seem like all of that is utterly irrelevant to you, but stick with me here.
No, most of us don't have to worry about hitting the trail for weeks at a time. What we DO have to worry about is energy and getting a decent breakfast in the morning. Getting a good breakfast in the morning (and in my experience, within one hour of waking up) primes your metabolism. It reminds your body that food is plentiful and it doesn't need to go into "starvation mode," where the metabolism slows down because your body thinks it needs to hoard energy. By eating something nice and carb-heavy like these bannocks, your metabolism is primed AND you get some quick energy for the morning!
So here we go. You're really not going to need any special equipment except for:
Pre-heat your oven to 450 F (232 C), and get your ingredients together.
What I've got here are:
I'll put the whole recipe in a more concise form, complete with yield, down at the bottom of the entry, along with approximate nutrition info.
You're going to start by taking all your dry ingredients....
... and mixing them together.
You want it really well mixed so that there aren't any clumps of brown sugar.
Next, you drop in the butter and work it in completely. Once again, you aren't looking for clumps. This isn't pie dough.
Your goal is for the butter to be COMPLETELY worked in. At this point, the mix should look a lot like bread crumbs.
Now it's time for the milk. You may need a little more or less than the cup you have- you want to make a stiff dough, but your don't want any flour or dry stuff left over. Add the milk, and stir with a wooden spoon until it feels too stiff to stir- then go in there and knead it by hand.
There we go.
Now, it's time to get rolling!
Sprinkle some extra flour on a clean surface, set your dough on it, and roll it out to a big sheet about 1/3" thick.
There we go! Remember, you want it to be about 1/3" thick.
Now here's where you can make a choice. Traditionally, you'd use a cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out as many piece as your could, then re-roll the scraps and go again. For simplicity's sake, however, today I've rolled it into a rough square and I'm just going to cut square pieces.
Take each piece and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet about an inch apart. You can use parchment paper if you want, but they'll be fine either way.
Oh yeah.... that's the stuff. Now you've got a quick and tasty breakfast for when you need to get out the door!
Emily's gonna be happy.
I think you'll be pretty happy too.
As promised, here's the actual recipe:
Yield: 16 Bannocks
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 20 minutes
After plugging this recipe into MyFitnessPal, here's the nutritional information for each bannock. Be aware, this is for the all brown sugar, almond milk version I did here. If you change the sugars, or use regular milk instead of almond, the actual nutritional content will obviously be different.
Enjoy, and happy baking!
About the Author
The Black Hat Baker, a.k.a. Matt Strenger, lives in SE Portland, Oregon as a professional baker. Here, Matt bakes, cooks, exercises, and explores, returning to his wife and their hobbit hole up Mt. Tabor to write about all of it.
Email the BHB at blackhatbakery(at)gmail(dot)com
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