For many years I made most of my own bread for our nuclear family unit. Not every day and not all the time, but often enough. There is something satisfying about creating an essential food from nothing more than flour, salt, sugar, yeast, time and effort. Moving to Toronto, I stopped making bread for the duration of the stay, but now that I’m back home, I’ve returned to the craft.
Bread, in its many forms, is delightfully schizophrenic. In some ways, it is rudimentary cooking. In other ways, it is black magic of the highest orders in the deepest circles of hell, plus physics and chemistry. The fun part is you can’t tell where one starts and the other leaves off.
There is also the schism of technology: The Breadmaker Machine. I’ll confess, I own one, I have used it and it makes a perfectly acceptable loaf. However, I tend to use the technology for the initial proofing and mixing, then take over from there. Breadmakers are a fine substitute for a proofing box that home kitchens don’t really have these days. Yes, I know, there are antique proofing boxes and likely there is a YouTube how-to video of a guy in Idaho who make a seventy-loaf computer controlled, two-axis rotary proofer out of an Atari video game console, five sheets of Coroplast and a lawnmower engine. I don’t care and don’t send me the link either.
I don’t approach bread making as ‘gastro porn’: My flour isn’t from some organic farm in Wetaskiwin, only ground between stones of a certain provennance from a quarry in Delft, with yeast cells raised free-range, thawed 4,000 year old iceberg water and sugar from organic fair-trade, eco-responsible cane, dehydrated by Caramelite Nuns in Haiti. Sorry to all the foodies out there, I won’t reach your standard of anally retentive. I actually make bread
I could easily write another 2,000 words about the emotional giving and receiving and deconstruct the social pathways of hand crafting and appreciation of the cultural variances that cross socioeconomic markers. Or, I could just make some nice baguette loaves that we will share with guests later today.
There will be butter of course and since it is our Canadian Thanksgiving, there will in all likelihood be gravy. Possibly a sandwich later with dressing, cranberries and some thinly sliced white meat with a dusting of cracked pepper and salt.
So, in a round-about way, we get to thanks giving. I’m giving thanks that I get to do this today. Best of all? It will taste great.