Babies, birthdays, and breadsticks

This week my sister-in-law had a baby on her back porch, my big girl hit the double digits, and I learned to make breadsticks.

Actually, I learned to make breadsticks last week, but it was such an exciting experience that the good feeling leaked over into this week.

I love birth stories for their intensity, rawness, awesomeness, and comedy. Because, yes, some births are downright funny, and if my brother and sister-in-law will excuse me for saying so, this one was pretty hilarious. I mean, the mutt dog that my sister-in-law hasn’t ever really liked (and that’s putting it nicely) was present for more of the labor than the midwife who made it three minutes pre-delivery.

The evening of the birth, Mom and Dad came over with the soon-to-be new big sister. The rest of us were in the middle of watching Holes which we had to pause repeatedly while answering phone calls and get the latest updates. At 8:46 we stopped the movie to take bets on when the baby would be born. My baby said giddily, “In one minute!” I was right behind him with an optimistic guess of 10:30. Fifteen minutes later we stopped the video for the ringing phone yet again: the baby was here! My kids jumped and hollered and the new big sister glowed, giggled, and clapped her hands. Back Porch Baby (for that’s her new nickname, you realize) missed being decade twins with my girl by just three short hours.

The next day was filled up to the brim with cocoa puffs, free slurpies at Seven-Eleven (did you know they give them out on 7/11? I didn’t!), swimming lessons in the morning, and another visit to the pool in the afternoon, the making of a red velvet cake, apocalyptic skies and wild winds, subs and fruit and chips (hooray for simple birthday suppers!), and a pile of presents. The evening ended with a reading of all of Miss Beccaboo’s birthday interviews. (Each year on their birthday, I ask each kid the same 15 questions and then we read them aloud, along with the answers from the previous interviews. It’s a hoot to see the similarities and differences over the years and to see up close how they’ve grown and matured.)

among some of the gifts: headband and scarf from NYC,
and an altered dress-up dress

they even smiled at us!

cake-with-obscene-amounts-of-red food coloring and two kinds of frosting (this and this)

The birthday fun isn’t over yet. Five girlfriends are coming on Friday night to help her whoop it up real good for her first-ever birthday party. (It’s her first, not because she didn’t want a party before, but because I do not allow birthday parties until the age of ten. From age ten and on, special birthdays happen every several years, though I’m not sure what that’s going to mean exactly. I’m open to suggestions.)

And now for the breadsticks!

These little buggers made me inordinately happy. They are soft and tender and chewy and buttery and sublime, and I pretty much fell head over heels in love with them right away.

Those adjectives I mentioned? I know they’re cliche and way too much over-used (that was redundant), but they are truetruetrue.

There’s really not much more to say. But that might be okay, because once you make them your mouth will be full (like my little boy’s was when he stuffed an entire stick into his mouth) and you won’t want to talk anyway because you’ll be so busy chewing and moaning, your eyes rolled back in your head and everything.

One more thing before I shut up and kick you into the kitchen: these things are easy to make, dangerously easy. Prepare to be stunned by their simplicity.

Soft and Chewy Breadsticks
Adapted from Sarah of Clover Lane

This recipe is as straightforward as a recipe can get, so there is lots of room to ham it up if you so wish. You could add some whole wheat to the dough, dust the buttered pan with some semolina flour or cornmeal, or sprinkle some chopped fresh herbs, salt, or fancier cheeses over the finished breadsticks. But each time I make them, I am so wowed by their awesomeness that I can never bring myself to do something different.

The first time I made these I served them with roasted tomato and garlic sauce for dipping, but turns out my family didn’t dig that concept. They preferred to eat the bread as is—and so did I. The second time around I served the breadsticks (a double batch) with a giant salad and everyone was very, very happy. And very, very full.

2 ½ teaspoons yeast
1 cup warm water
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups bread flour
1/4 cup oil
4 tablespoons butter, melted
½ teaspoon garlic salt
½ cup dry Parmesan cheese (not fresh)

Dissolve the yeast in the water. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and brown sugar. Add the yeast and water and oil. Stir till combined and then knead till soft and pliable. Flour the bowl and return the dough to it. Cover with a towel and let rise for an hour.

Butter a large cookie sheet/baking pan (one with sides is best). Roll out the dough so that it fills the pan. Using a pizza cutter (or a knife), cut the dough in half lengthwise once and then crosswise about 11 times—you’re aiming for about 24 sticks. Cover the dough with a towel and let rise for 30-60 minutes.

Bake the breadsticks in a 375 degree oven for about 12 minutes. Combine the melted butter and garlic salt, and pour it over the hot bread. Sprinkle liberally with Parmesan cheese.

Serve warm with a bowl of soup and/or a green salad.

Or pull these out of the oven at bedtime for a special snack. (And in that case you might want to omit the garlic salt and Parmesan and sprinkle the breadsticks with some cinnamon-sugar! Just an idea…)

This same time, years previous: vanilla buttercream frosting, roasted cherry vanilla ice cream with dark chocolate, strawberry cake


  • Mary M.

    Just wanted to say I just made the breadsticks,and they are AMAZING!!
    Started reading your blog about a month ago, and find it most enjoyable. Thank you!

  • dr perfection

    Want to know what are the birthday questions–are they philosophical or things like, who do you love more–your mom or dad?

  • Amy

    I never had a birthday party until I was 18. My soon-to-be groom's family was shocked. (because hello…..the Mexicans do not really need an excuse to have a party..)

  • teekaroo

    I've just been pondering if I should invite my four year old's friends over for a little shin-dig when she turns 5 next week. The thought of several little moody girls running around my house makes me a little light-headed. Maybe I'll start the "not till 10" rule…
    Oh, and I would love to know what sorts of questions you ask. We used to read all the silly sayings and doings that we did as little ones and that made for a fun time too.

  • Margo

    making me HUNGRY. but I don't have that parmesan crap on hand – is this going to become yet another pantry staple for me? I sense that it is.

    love the birthday questions. I also like to keep the birthday threshold pretty low for my kids, so that they enjoy treats so much more.

  • Anonymous

    The only big birthday party I had was when I turned 10. It really wasn't that big, either — just a few kids from around the neighborhood. The parties for my confirmation and graduations from 8th grade and high school were more elaborate affairs.

Leave a Comment