I found this video of her playing and talking. I guess it was made in 1978, and it seems as though it was shot on 16 mm, and roughly edited. I love everything about it. I love the darkness, and the silences around her playing, when she just sits and waits. I love the stories she tells. I like to think about her life, which seems so strange and important, and which I can only get a sideways, glancing picture of in my mind.
I made a loaf of bread the other day, with ground toasted oats, honey, black pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. I made the dough very soft and wet, so that the bread had a wide open crumb, kind of like a crumpet. I think it turned out very good. The flavor is subtle, you taste the honey, but the pepper and nutmeg are only hinted at. One night when I came home from work, I wanted a quick and comforting meal, so I sauteed some spinach and white beans and spread them on toast made from my oatmeal bread. I melted some cheese on my toast, too. This is sort of inspired by beans on toast and creamed spinach on toast. That’s a thing, right?
Here’s a link to an Elizabeth Cotten album on spotify, I hope.
1 T butter
1 large bunch spinach, washed and roughly chopped
1 can small white beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup chopped tomatoes or chopped cherry tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 t rosemary
1 t basil
1/2 t red pepper flakes (or to taste)
salt & pepper
dash balsamic or lemon
6 – 8 slices of toast. Butter for the toast, sliced mozzarella or cheddar for the toast, if you like.
Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and herbs and pepper flakes, and stir and cook for about a minute, until the butter and garlic start to brown. Add the beans, stir and cook for a minute or two. Add the spinach and a few tablespoonfuls of water. Stir to coat and cook until the spinach is wilted but bright. Add the tomatoes, stir and cook for a few minutes until they start to turn soft and saucy. Season with salt and pepper, and add a dash of balsamic or lemon.
Toast the bread till golden brown, and spread with a thin even layer of butter. If you like cheese on your toast, cut thin slices of your choice of cheese, and place in a thin layer on the toast. Heat till the cheese melts.
Place one or two toasts on a plate, and heap the beans and spinach over.
OATMEAL BREAD with honey, black pepper and nutmeg
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup warm water
1 t yeast
1 t sugar
2 cups rolled oats
3 – 3 1/2 cups flour
1 t salt
2 T honey
lots of black pepper
Combine the 1/2 cup flour with yeast and sugar and warm water. Place in a small covered bowl in a warm place for about an hour. It should be foamy and bubbly.
Toast the oats over medium heat in a wide flat pan. When they start to brown and smell toasty, after a few minutes, transfer them to a food processor. Process until coarsely ground. Add the flour, nutmeg and black pepper and process briefly. Add the honey, the yeast mixture, and about 1 1/2 cups of warm water. (Start with less and work your way up.) Process until you have a cohesive dough, adding more water or flour as necessary. I made my dough very wet and thin – and this resulted in a wider crumb and a chewier bread. If you’d like it to be a finer crumb, make your dough drier. Process until the dough comes together into a ball, and then for about a minute more. My dough was too wet to knead by hand, but if you’re going for a finer crumb, you can knead by hand now for about 7 minutes, until the dough is elastic and soft.
Place in a lightly oiled bowl in a warm place. Cover with a damp cloth. Leave for about two hours to double in bulk. Fold the dough over to deflate it, and leave it to rise for another hour or hour and a half. Fold it down again, and place it in a lightly oiled loaf pan. Leave for about an hour to rise.
Preheat the oven to 425. Brush the top of the loaf gently with water, and place in the center of the oven. Cook for about 45 minutes until the top is golden and hard, and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
Let cool before you slice.