Here is a big secret about me. I’m a bread baker.
Better said, I research breads and I know this avocation has become a very important part of my being. For more than 18 years I have read carefully about baker’s relationships with their craft and concurrently created my own. Some of them, like Peter Reinhart, or Brother Juniper, describe it as a spiritual activity and I totally agree.
As a bread “aficionada,” I often carry a fresh loaf with me. This gesture has nothing to do with anything I grew up with, but it may relate to the food and love connection of my upbringing.
You see, I make two sourdough loaves at a time. My family benefits from one, which we can hardly ever finish before I have another one around. So I often leave my house with the second loaf to give away to a friend or a friend-to-be. It’s a gift for the sake of sharing.
My mother cannot understand why I am so driven to bake breads and give them away. She makes a kind of challah bread she learned from my paternal grandmother and she is certainly generous with her loaves. Those are wonderful breads made with milk, butter and eggs plus some delicious fillings of cheese or apples or coconut. I grew up with this sweet bread we call “ rosca” and love it, of course.
But when I talk bread, I mean plain, rustic, basic, not necessarily sweet and luscious, but often delicious and always of an intriguing flavor. The kind you need to interact with in such close manner that you become part of it. This may have been a sentence only bakers like me will understand. Breads react to tiny changes. We, bread researchers, play with that more often than not and are hardly ever in the same page as the world of bakers with exact measures. Still, we have to follow the steps, always. Many bakers have written that baking bread keeps you honest and I agree.
The ingredients in rustic breads are simple. But the bounty of nature keeps the artisan in search of the new texture with yet another grain. There is a science to how much of a good thing can be added for nutrition’s sake and still result in an appealing loaf. But I like to push that a little and a final result is often surprising, sometimes better, sometimes worse than expected. There is plenty of starting over in this humbling art. However, there is no boredom and often, there’s the taste of success.
I fell in love with breads when I lived in Germany 21 years ago. I walked almost 45 minutes each way to the Goethe Institute in Grafing bei Munchen and there was this wonderful bakery on the way.
I often bought bread and took it home. I really wanted to share it, but couldn’t. The lady who hosted me did not have much interest in a closer relationship, so I stayed in my room having my own kitchen-less meals with this glorious bread. Meals with the other students were only at mid-day, in a school cafeteria or sometimes away, in Munich. It was too bad I never had much of a chance to have company for this ritual because the meaning of the very word “company” is “ to break bread with” as in “con pani,” as I have learned from my bread readings.
A couple of years after my experience in Germany, as a young mother living in the US, I once read in a magazine that new mothers should take up bread baking because it’s a very interrupted task. I found this to be a perfect moment to give it a try. I soon realized I had a certain balance that compensated for the frustration of interruptions.
With a determination to teach myself as much as I could, I stayed put, but there were plenty of moments when I didn’t think I could do it. Things got particularly rough after I decided to graduate to sourdough breads made with an organic grape starter I created in my own kitchen.
Unlike other bakers, I have never worked in a bakery. So, it has been lonely at times, but now I know I mastered it.
Some people have wondered how do I find the time. I tell them I don’t have to, because I have created small routines to tend to my craft. If I want to make a completely different bread, then I do need a little extra time, but otherwise, it’s like brushing my teeth. We are creatures of habit and are lucky when basic habits really feel like soul tending.
I stayed with this hobby because of its possibilities. Bread making is forever active, but yet, it is soothing and reflective. In this fast pace world, it is incredibly ancient in its simplicity as it yields marvelous results. It is always welcome by all different ethnic and age groups.
In these times of major misunderstandings, I truly wonder what would happen if our world leaders were advised to add some bread making to their private tasks.
What this world kneads, may well be peace!
Este artigo foi publicado originalmente em novembro de 2002 no jornal Metrowest Daily News, nos EUA.
Nota: A autora deste texto não mais se dedica à arte de fazer pães com tal zelo. Embora sinta saudades, preocupa-se com os efeitos do trigo e os riscos do químico acrilamida, que se forma em todas as comidas cozidas ou assadas em alta temperatura. Este pão sempre foi assado a uma temperatura inicial de 500 graus Fahrenheit que depois eram baixados para 450 F ( ainda super-quente) A autora é hoje devota das comidas cruas e vivas, ou seja, nada cozido acima de 118 graus Fahrenheit, um exigência para a preservação das enzimas e da saúde.