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.
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.