I have been thinking about connections. Specifically, connections with people, as well as whatever else sustains us in our lives. These are the true gifts we give to ourselves.
What started my thought processes ticking over was a passage from a book I’m still reading called ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life’ by Barbara Kingsolver. It is a rather lengthy quote, but has so much to offer.
“…cooking is good citizenship. It’s the only way to get serious about putting locally raised foods into your diet, which keeps farmlands healthy and grocery money in the neighborhood. Cooking and eating with children teaches them civility and practical skills they can use later on to save money and stay healthy, whatever may happen in their lifetimes to the gas-fueled food industry. Family time is at a premium for most of us, and legitimate competing interests can easily crowd out cooking. But if grabbing fast food is the only way to get the kids to their healthy fresh-air soccer practice on time, that’s an interesting call. Arterial-plaque specials that save minutes now can cost years, later on. Households that have lost the soul of cooking from their routines may not know what they’re missing: the song of a stir-fry sizzle, the small talk of clinking measuring spoons, the yeasty scent of rising dough, the painting of flavors onto a pizza before it slides into the oven. The choreography of many people working in one kitchen is, by itself, a certain definition of family, after people have made their separate ways home to be together. The nurturing arts are more than just icing on the cake, insofar as they influence survival. We have dealt to today’s kids the statistical hand of a shorter life expectancy than their parents, which would be us, the ones taking care of them. Our thrown-away food culture is the sole reason.”
Recently, against much hesitation, I took a leap of faith that I was hoping would yield the product of a bread I could eat again. My hesitation was about spending time trying to do something that seemed beyond my technical ability, and for perhaps not particularly brilliant results. After years of retraining myself not to eat bread and pasta, I wasn’t even certain my ‘care factor’ was strong enough to inspire the new efforts. I used to bake wheat bread many years ago, with only moderate success, and so I was not at all certain this was an endeavour to satisfy the rather high standards for my food. But back then I didn’t have the connection with blog friends and the internet to support me!
After years of not being able to digest wheat options in any form, except the tiniest amounts, bread I can eat is like a little miracle in my life. As the Universe often does, it conspired to support me. The author of a blog I follow has similar problems with similar foods to myself (FODMAPS, google it, it is not as uncommon as you would think). Through her diligence she developed a spelt sourdough starter, tested it, dried it and sent some to me, along with copious notes and instructions. After text messages and a phone call I got through making my first loaf.
It was very dense, not ideal, but it was edible.
The second loaf was more edible, as was the third. More research was required. More practice as well. The fourth loaf was a breakthrough, and the fifth loaf confirmed my skills. But after five weeks of trying, loaf six…was…brilliant (she said modestly).
I think I may be hooked. There is something so satisfying about taking flour, water and salt and making something to nourish one’s body, not to mention is a beautiful thing! It is the connection with our food that our culture has nearly lost. A few brave and dedicated souls, like Barbara Kingsolver and her family, Michael Pollan, the Slow Food Movement, and the entire population of France, are helping us see our way back again.
So, this gift of bread making is more than just a connection to my food. It is the practice of a lifelong source of joy—making something with my hands. And it is the return of another joy, eating, and sharing good bread. This, my friends is how we should give to ourselves. And this, my friends is my gift to you…the recipe 🙂