Baking Bread 

I bake bread.

Not with a machine, not quick bread, but yeast rising, kneading, fill-the-house-with-the-aroma-of-God bread.

I learned from my grandmother, who was born before 1900. My grandfather wouldn’t eat bakery bread. That’s what they called bread in a sack from the supermarket. Grandma baked several times a week.

I couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8 when I first became enthralled with the process. Grandma made small loaves of white–thick and crusty. Artisan is the word that describes it. From that moment, I was hooked. I’ve been baking bread for over 40 years. Sometimes with mixed results.

I get on jags. I perfect a recipe, and then forget about it. I don’t like to follow instructions. Instead, I feel my way through. The last few months, it’s been oatmeal, made from leftover breakfast oats. It’s a way to get rid of food too good to throw out.

Baking requires focus and instinct. It’s a right brain activity.

How much flour?

‘Til I have enough.

I forgot the egg.

Finish it anyway. If it doesn’t work, throw it away.

After the loaf is baked and cooled on a wire rack, I slice off a thin heel, slather it with butter, and bite into a warm crumbly mouthful. The first spoils go to the cook.

I’d like to say the taste evokes familial collective memory, but in the end, it’s just bread. You have a slice you can eat, and that’s enough.

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