Ellen Clifford
November 08, 2013 4:00 pm

Who here idolizes Patti Smith the way I do? Is there anyone cooler than the woman christened “Godmother of Punk”? There is not.

Just Kids, Smith’s autobiography, will inspire you to get up and DO SOMETHING with your life. To create and to have respect for creation. Patti Smith amazes me with her single-minded devotion to being an artist. So many of us are scared to call ourselves that, but not Patti. She just keeps on creating.

Patti Smith is not just a musician. She is a photographer. She is a poet. She wrote a friggin’ play with Sam Shepard, for pity’s sake. I want her for my mentor. Actually, I sort of want to be her. Not really, but as an actress I really, really want to play her when Just Kids gets made into a movie. I even started learning guitar so I’ll be ready.

I fell for Patti while playing a fairy in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. So typical, I know. The director had us fairies take on the persona of a rock ‘n’ roll girl gang. He wanted us to research female rock artists and he took a look at my disheveled, pale and skinny countenance, pointed at me and said “Patti Smith”. He was right. In this pic you see me on the left, Patti on the right. I think I did okay.

And incidentally, I enjoy being pale and disheveled. But back to Patti.

I had the pleasure of seeing her speak and one of the questions asked of her is where she found the energy and creativity to be so prolific in so many art forms. She answered that she just had to be. She said she can’t listen to beautiful music without wanting to be making it. At art galleries, sooner or later she can’t just look. She just needs to be creating her own pieces. She just can’t help herself. She probably does not overuse the word “just” as much as I just did.

Also when asked if she had advice for women artists she said no. She only had advice for artists. Because Picasso would not be referenced as being a male artist. And she said that if you want to be an artist-male or female-you just have to accept that people are going to push against you no matter the gender. Basically accept that it will rough. But it is worth it.

If we cannot be Patti, we can at least eat like her. She had a similar strategy around Rimbaud. She describes drinking a Pernod and water at a Paris bar in homage to the French poet.

In Just Kids, Patti touches on a lot of her favorite foods she’d get at an automat, but a more interesting meal is one she makes the day that she got the iconic picture taken that was used as the Horses album cover-what you see above on the right.

I was getting new headshots taken, so I figured it would be appropriate to feed myself like Patti. Maybe some of the magic in her would transmit.

The meal Patti describes before the Horses shoot consists of a crusty roll drizzled with olive oil, topped with sardines and sprinkled with cayenne. She makes fresh mint tea to go with her sandwich. I am a vegetarian so I decided to forgo the fish, but I made a homemade crusty roll for the sandwich. Fresh mint tea was a revelation compared to bagged kind. And although the tea is hot, the mint provides a nice cooling counterpoint to the cayenne on the roll. It is a whole new kind of tea party.

A Pre-Photo-Shoot Meal (rolls adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian)

For tea:

  • water
  • fresh mint leaves

For rolls:

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast (aka “rapid rise”)

To finish:

  • olive oil
  • anchovies (optional)
  • cayenne
  • punk rock

For tea, simple stuff a tea kettle with fresh mint, bring water to a boil, pour over leaves, allow to steep a few minutes, then strain into a tea cup.

For rolls made in a food processor, add all ingredients to a food processor and blend. Then, with food processor processing, slowly add 1 cup of water through the feed tube. Keep processing until the dough forms a nice smooth dough ball. You may need to add a bit of extra flour or water to get it to do that. Just do so in small increments.

To mix by hand, blend half the flour with other dry ingredients. Then stir in the water, then slowly add in the rest of the flour as needed.

Once you have your dough mixed, put it in the bowl, cover and allow to rest for at least an hour. Then punch your risen dough ball down. Dust some flour on a nice flat surface and dump the dough out onto it. Separate into about 8-12 pieces and roll into balls. Cover them loosely and allow to rest. Meanwhile, preheat the oven. When the oven is at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, spritz a baking sheet with some nonstick spray. Cut a couple of slits on top of each roll and transfer to the sheet. Put it into the oven and cook until you have lightly browned crust. How long that takes will really depend on your oven and how large your rolls are.

You can make your tea while you let them cool until manageable. Split one open, drizzle on some olive oil. If you are using the anchovies, now is the time to add them. If not, just proceed to sprinkling on the cayenne.

Put on Horses and sing along. That is, when your mouth is not full of fresh bread goodness. Rock.

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