Sunday, March 23, 2008

making bread

It's not something that we did in our family, so I have no memories of making bread, the way I have of licking cake batter out of a bowl in my grandmother's kitchen or of learning to fish a strand of pasta out of boiling water and test it with my teeth. At one of my stepbrothers' weddings, the bride read a poem about shaping dough and braiding loaves, about bread and faith, bread and love. And I search my mind for the words, because I'm making bread.

I'm making bread and, standing at the sink, I let the water run through my fingers and, when it's warm enough, pour it into a bowl with the yeast and sugar. My mother once gave me a book that said that love isn't a pitcher that you pour from until it's empty, but, instead, love is a well that you can dip a bucket into again and again, and the more you take out, the more there is left. I can visualize the black-and-white drawing that went with the words, but, even at seven, I could see that the author didn't know anything about either wells or love.

Still, I'm making bread, measuring the salt and butter, adding the rest of the flour a little at a time, turning the dough over and over in my hands, fighting its warp and spring. Then there's the rosemary, rosemary for remembrance, I think as I walk upstairs, because I can't help thinking it. The room's emptier than I would have guessed, but on the floor are six of L's guitars, silent in cases as black as coffins and, on the windowsill, the rosemary, green and thriving, curling towards the light. I strip the piny leaves into my palm, and, back in the kitchen, I spread them on a cutting board and run the knife over them, working them into the dough. The dough rises and doubles, the way it's supposed to and I punch it down and divide it into two round loaves, then wait for it to double again.

I'm making bread and, as I set the timer one last time, I stop and consider. And what I think is this: what bread is made of is yeast and water, sugar, flour, butter, work and time. And there's a recipe and, if I've followed it, I'll open the oven and find two warm and perfect loaves. But, though it's easy enough to lose track of, whatever else I might try to make of it, in the end, I'm only making bread.

24 comments:

CLC said...

There's nothing more delicious than homemade bread. I wish I could have some!

I was thinking as I read the last paragraph, if only it were that easy to have a baby. It seems that we deadbabymoms followed the recipes, yet somehow someone opened the oven too soon or the measurements weren't exact enough for the loaf to rise. I don't understand why it works for some people, even those that don't follow the recipe, and than doesn't for others. It's just not fair.

My Reality said...

I love to make bread. The kneading of the dough is very calming to me. I like to make bread when I am really upset about something, I can take my aggression out on something productive.

I only wish everything else was as easy as making bread.

k@lakly said...

mmmmmm, rosemary bread, my fav!

The Town Criers said...

Maybe bread fits in a different category from the other things we make--yes, it's only bread. But how does this one food bring so much comfort when it comes from the oven? Or that moment after the second proof before it goes into the oven?

A gorgeous post.

meg said...

This bread looks so good. I love rosemary too.

Kymberli said...

If only it were as easy...

Monica H said...

And it looks so delicious. One of my favorite smells has always been the smell of freshly baked bread- so warming.

And I think clc said it perfectly.

Yolanda said...

I can't get enough of this sentence: The room's emptier than I would have guessed, but on the floor are six of L's guitars, silent in cases as black as coffins and, on the windowsill, the rosemary, green and thriving, curling towards the light.

F*cking brilliant image. I just can't get enough.

Amanda said...

I love the way you weave words so thoughtfully. I love your blog. I'd like to say more, but I'm afraid what I have to offer is as hollow as what I often receive. I agree with clc...

Minnesota Matron said...

You're a beautiful writer!

Magpie said...

Only bread. But ancient, necessary stuff of life. So, not only bread at all.

And was it good?

Tash said...

I can damn near smell it.

Sadly, all that work in my oven would wind up with a raw ball of dough or a tough doorstop. So maybe CLC *is* right, you can follow the recipe, but if the oven's broken, well.

Which Box said...

My mother made Easter bread this weekend; my sister did too. I did not. It was a little rainy, I thought maybe it wouldn't rise well. But there is something so satisfying about this most ancient of rituals - the kneading, the rising, the punching down the soft rise.It's so simple when it works, isn't it? Hard to even imagine that it sometimes does not, for reasons unexplained.

slouching mom said...

oh your words in this. so lovely. and the bread? looks delicious, even if it is only bread.

BTW, the photo of the eggs/carton was gorgeous.

Ruby said...

Beautiful words. Beautiful bread. Beautiful and sad.

calliope said...

this post is beautiful and layered.
I can almost smell the rosemary.

xo

Lisa b said...

Sometimes the most simple things can be the most amazing. Bread is one of those. Always a bit of magic to it that such simple ingredients can make something so wonderful.

Furrow said...

A few months ago I found the bread machine we got for our wedding. It was tucked away in my parents' garage, always too big for the series of small apartments we lived in for the first years of our marriage. Now I bake all of our sandwich bread and the occasional french loaf. Maybe its not as romantic, letting a machine time the rising and do the kneading, but I like the act of measuring out the ingredients, and the smell is still divine, no matter how easily it comes.

Ahuva Batya said...

"fighting its warp and spring." what is it, about that phrase, that left me contemplative for long moments after reading this?

Christine said...

rosemary for remembrance.

yes.

Running on empty

susan said...

rosemary for remembrance...but the smell of a fresh loaf of bread is all about future pleasures. What a mix of emotions here.

Antigone said...

I can't cook.

Ruby said...

Thanks for the recipe! I signed in just to ask for it.

Antigone said...

I made it. :-) I used too much olive oil and not enough flour - the bread was overly moist. A good first try at bread though.