I made bread today; it is a birthday present for one of my very interesting friends.
It is present bread
We live in a time of fast food, pre-made food, and partially assisted food (food we prepare, but out of ingredients that are largely prepped for us). Regardless of what we are eating, we often eat it on the run or poised to move on. If we do sit down, our focus is often somewhere else, like television or game screens, and like speaking or texting.
Bread is a slow food.
Today’s bread involved a short break to start the yeast, a longer break to proof the rising, an hour or more for the first rise, half an hour for the second and half an hour to bake. It probably took a bit of time to cool the bread too. I wasn’t busy all the time, but the bread required my attention for the greater part of at least 2 1/2 hours–and I prompted a rather fast rise. While the bread was rising, I was also cleaning up the dishes, doing laundry, and walking the dog.
Baking forces you to slow down and remain in place for a while. Although it isn’t as mentally draining as grading essays–my other job at the moment–it requires you to pay attention to what you are doing. I can daydream while I am kneading, stare at the dogwood outside the window, but for the most part, I belong to the bread for most of the morning.
I am not one for meditating, but I really enjoy baking as a chance to be in the time and place I am at that moment. I can see my ingredients, nibble on cherries and almonds, feel the smooth wood of the spoon, the dusty flour, and the firm dough in my hands. I can smell the yeast, the cherries, the almonds, the rising bread and the baking bread. I feel the smooth surfaces of the counter and tools, and the warm soapy water as I wash up.
The bread and I are present