Odd Thoughts: Satisfaction guaranteed… almost

I’m sitting here, eating my own bread.

That may not seem remarkable, at first blush.

But I didn’t just make a sandwich.

I made the bread, I didn’t buy it.

Well, I did buy the ingredients: flour, milk, sugar, and yeast.

But I put those ingredients together, worked my fingers through them, punched at them, shaped them into loaves, and stuck them in the oven.

I didn’t even use my fancy bread-maker or my Cuisinart’s dough-kneading attachment.

It was a paragraph in my ancient Five Roses Guide to Good Cooking cookbook that struck me: “Baking yeast breads is surprisingly easy… no other type of baking can give you such a wonderful sense of personal satisfaction.”

I wanted to experience that personal satisfaction.

After all, I was promised it would be “easy.”

And surely, it must be. What other explanation could there be for memories of my mother baking a dozen or so loaves of bread. Every week, she baked enough to feed a family of seven farm kids with appetites so large as to amaze and amuse friends and neighbours.

I think Saturday was baking day – but I was still very little when she gave up all that “easy satisfaction” in deference to the baker’s van that began rolling through our neighbourhood on a weekly run.

It took a large part of the day, mixing the dough and kneading it to consistency, then setting it aside to rise – giving her time to do laundry before punching it down for the second rise – and more laundry.

The memories flooded back to me as I followed the cookbook procedure, just like Mom.

Well… almost.

I wasn’t doing laundry during the rises.

And my oven is isn’t fired by wood. I punch some buttons and set the timer. It doesn’t require an advanced degree in thermal engineering to keep the temperature right and even. I don’t have to add firewood at precise intervals and gauge the effect a piece of maple will have on the temperature, as opposed to a block of alder, say, or a faggot of seasoned fir.

But the smell of bread baking is close to the same.

My bread looks like Mom’s, and the taste is near memory. But the texture is a bit coarse.

I can’t say I’m as satisfied as advertised.

It must have been easier back when Mom did it.


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