Saturday, January 19, 2013

Bread, Gardens, Patience, Connections


I'm baking bread today. Using Jim Lahey's recipe from Sullivan Street Bakery which I found, as thousands seem to have, through Mark Bittman's Minimalist column and videos. It requires a large cast-iron dutch oven and I didn't have one but my brother has one he doesn't love and might gift to me (depending on how well I do with the bread). I have that big old pot waiting on the stove next to the cutting board on which the bread is sitting, wrapped in a cotton towel rising (I hope) for another half hour or so. I'm impatient with this waiting.

I love making things and food is something I make well. As soon as I'm done writing, I'll take the tofu out of its press, marinate it in some sort of soy sauce mixture and get it ready to bake. I have to do something to pass the time waiting on the bread.

In making French bread last week according to my friend's recipe, I ended up with two beautiful but fairly tasteless loaves. The culprit? Not letting it rise long enough. I'm all too often in a hurry. As evidence, I keep looking up at the dough willing it to rise already!

This is why I don't garden, though I would like to. As my children might, minutes after planting a seed I ask, "when do you think it will grow?" An hour later, having checked the soil three times, I grow frustrated and move on to other things.

I would like the results of gardening and some of the labor too. I'll probably start a small herb garden this spring in a box, something I can manage. I'll put a timer next to the freshly planted seeds and set it for two weeks so that I don't check back on things every second.

If you're wondering, my bread has still not finished rising. Damn it.

Here's the wonder of this recipe. I watched Lahey create this bread with Bittman standing by his side. This is in a video from 2006. Then I read the recipe, which is as easy as making Campbell's soup, and started making it for myself.

That's the wonder?

Well, yeah. This guy in New York City has an idea and makes it into something. Then he tells people about it and, though they are removed from him by distance and time, they can do just what he did. That's cool. It's the thing I like best about writing and reading and connecting. I'm not a professional baker. I don't know nearly enough about baking to play at it unguided yet. I depend on the kindness of strangers and here I am connecting with this guy from six or so years ago. It's like how we look at the light of stars and that's the history of the star. We can't see what it is like now, just what it looked like long ago when it gave off that light. Crazy stuff.

Speaking of connections (was I speaking of connections? I thought I was talking about bread.) after some of my tirades this week about Lance Armstrong I tweeted Emily Bazelon of Slate.com what I thought of him and how "bully" wasn't nearly a strong enough word.

This morning, I was reading her latest story on just that topic, about how he is more than a bully and is using that term to mask the extent of the damage he inflicted, I saw, in the last line of the piece, my name and the quote of my tweet.

How cool is that?

It's that time in the essay where I need to pull things together. Let's see. There is the bread which still needs time to rise. There is my impatience with that wait time. So I sat down to write for a bit about what was going on. It's like what Bittman did after discussing this recipe with Lahey. Next, I'll put it out there for others to read and do with as they see fit. I doubt Emily Bazelon is going to pick this one up and publish an article about it, but who knows. Putting ourselves out there inspires connections, but like the garden we can't expect the seed to grow into a connection in seconds. Sometimes it takes time to grow, or rise, or find an audience. Whatever the case, the solution is to be patient and write on.