Thursday, December 16, 2010

Still on her bread toot.

I learned how to bake bread by using an ancient Sunset book on bread baking.  I looked at the pictures, attempted to read the instructions, and with a great deal of trepidation, made my first loaf.  I can't stand written instructions; never could.  Neither can my mother.   I remember the kitchen table, the floor, and me all covered in flour.  I remember the sticky mess.  Man, did I hate that sticky mess.  Somehow I produced a loaf of bread.  It took me forever.  Amazing that I ever made another loaf.

At the time I had a lovely cleaning lady from British Guiana.  She came from a poor family where nobody had 2 pennies to rub together.  Everything was made by hand.  Her son was the first person in the family to graduate from high school;  people were lucky if they finished 8th grade.   Her mom made bread for the family constantly.  Her town had a communal oven, and everyone baked her bread in it.  She would clean my messy house every other week, and we'd talk about everything.  So it was time for her to come to me about 2 weeks post-first bread.  I told her everything I had done, showed her the cook book, and she proceeded to tell me how her mother did it.  And she encouraged me, and laughed at my grumps about sticky dough, and I learned so much from her.  She did get her laugh of the year from my description of my mess.

I know a lady from Portugal.  Her English is sketchy; my Portuguese is non-existent, but we manage to chat and understand each other.  We were talking about bread the other day.  Lots of hand motions, guess-work on our parts, and it was so interesting.  She too comes from a place of communal ovens.  She told me that her grandmother used to make the bread for the week in one day.  The entire kitchen table was covered in dough; she and the other ladies of the village marked their doughs so that they would recognize what came out of the oven.  And here I am, across the Pond, and I'm doing the same thing.  OK, not in huge quantities, and I have machinery and a stove, and such, but bread is bread is bread.  And we're tied together by this.

Bread baking goes back to whenever.  Remember the Israelites fleeing Egypt with their bread that had no time to rise?  Maybe we would think of it as pita bread?  As soon as someone figured out how to grow wheat or teff or whatever, someone else figured out how to use it.  Some ground-up grain, water, and whatever yeast was out there, mix it up, work it, bake it.  It is such an elementary bit of food, nothing but flour, water, yeast, and a bit of salt to keep it from rising to the moon.

I love the fact that it ties me to my ancestors.  That someone in ancient times and I could have chatted about it and understood each other. 

Isn't this amazing?  OK, I'm in love with it.

DJNL - I don't dare bake cookies; I'd eat them. No willpower whatsoever.

kv - And there is enough steam build-up so that afterward, you can wipe down the microwave and get it clean.

chemo - I'd love to check your blog, but can't find you through your link.

1 comment:

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