I'm not a fan of chain letters. I remember very distinctly the first time I was ever exposed to one. I was in about the sixth grade and a young lady in our church brought over an unmarked envelope she received in her mail that day. She was very distraught over the contents and wanted some pastoral perspective. I remember my parents reading through and reassuring her that curses wouldn't reign down on her life if she just burned the silly thing up. I don't really remember how she responded, but I remember my dad's general disgust with the concept. He shared a liberal dose of perspective with me that day...
With the advent of electronic communication, chain mail has evolved. It is for this reason I'm not a fan of the e-mail forward. On the occasion I *might* feel the need to forward, if at any point in the articles history someone has tacked on a goofy, "Send this to 10 of your friends and make a wish...it will come true in 20 minutes" I will edit that part off. I know that wishing and forwarding combo doesn't really work because the Publishers Clearing House people have never knocked on my door and I have never won the Dream House off of HGTV. Clearly, between various forwards (worth passing on) and the official entry into those sweepstakes, I should have won many times over. I have yet to be ambushed with a large check or cameras at my front door. (which is probably actually a good thing since I am sometimes in my PJ's til around noonish. I know, shocking.).
I dislike the inspirational ones even more. LOVE the stories! Often they are moving, thought provoking and encouraging. Just don't go ruining the whole thing by tacking on a spiritual guilt trip ("if you love Jesus you'll forward this to everyone on your list" or a slight alteration of the wishes...only it says "PRAY for twenty people you know and look for your miracle tomorrow" or some other such nonsense.)
Since I dislike the concept of forwards, but I love meeting new people and sharing tips, tricks, gifts, etc., I have been sucked into trying 'nice' chain letters. You've seen them...most notably, the recipe swap.
Yeah, I tried this. I do like recipes and fun is at the top of my list of ways to spend my day. Here is my favorite reply, from my sister. (my paraphrase)
No one likes chain letters and we don't all need new recipes. Frankly, I am overwhelmed with the ones I already have. Take me off the list, I will not be participating.
She was only slightly less snippy.
And even though they are illegal via the postal mail service, I rec'd *this* one and gave it a whirl. I'll have you know that I did not get a single, solitary reply. None, nada, zip. And I purchased some very cute towels for the exchange!
So last week when a friend offered up the Holy Grail of baking chain exchanges, what was a girl to do? I'd never even heard of Amish Friendship Bread. The premise is a little different in the baking world, a chain is when you are given a starter which you must care for and feed until it's ripe enough to bake. But before baking, you split it off and share your starter with other non-suspecting friends. Of course, the same kind of folk-lore that I detest exists even in the baking world. Attached to this recipe were dire warnings with eternal consequences. Okay, not really eternal.
What it did say that I could NOT use any metal mixing utensils or bowls. Um, hello...recipe writer, I'd like you to meet my lovely kitchen assistant, my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. Metal mixing bowl and beaters. If metals out, then so is the completion of this recipe. Clearly, I could not listen to that warning.
After sizing up the recipe and seeing that the list of ingredients included instant pudding mix, I was pretty sure that this did not start with a sweet old Amish woman. After all, I have read Beverly Lewis' books and I know they are simple people and don't do buttons, zippers, or other inventions of convenience so instant pudding would most likely NOT be on their shopping list or a stock item in their kitchen pantries.
Never-the-less, I was intrigued by the concept. SOOO, we gave it a whirl. We fed, mushed and took good care of that starter for 10 days. Then, in my general kitchen fashion, I threw caution to the wind and adjusted the recipe for my tendencies. I did not follow the recipe exactly (reduced the sugar and substituted applesauce for oil), I completely ignored the warnings (used metal bowls and beaters) and I baked the whole thing in a bundt pan rather than loaf pans. It was DIVINE.
Here is a great blog where I researched all about variations and how to make a starter if you have no Amish connections. I decided not to share my starters as there are so many cool ways to use it! And one of the commentors gave mathmatical ways to reduce your starter production so that you are not everrun by too many, but you can still bake your bread when you want to. I am very excited to try my hand at the sourdough bread mentioned in the comments.
With the Holiday season upon us, I see this recipe and starter as a chain letter I can embrace with enthusiasm. That's sayin' something folks!