My friend Candice and I have had excessive talks about bread. Long, engaging . . . overreaching talks about bread.
We both agreed that we are close to being certifiable about it, and it made us take a step back and ask ourselves . . . Why? Why do we care so much about the crown it gets after the first rise? Why do we care so much about the texture and whether or not it will properly hold peanut butter? Even the crust – the part that the kids throw away – has become an obsession. Is it thick? Too thick? Browned? Hollow sounding?
Yes, we are overachievers. Yes, we are perfectionists. But honestly, there is a little more going on here than just your average desire to make something good. So much of who we are as women are wrapped up in our houses. As “stayathomemoms” (affectionately acronym’d as SAHM on Twitter) we don’t always get to have the ‘alter ego’ that other women have. I find some of me in writing and coaching, Candice tries to find some of her in reading, but by and large, we are who our families are. Our families are our kids and husband, and our kids and husband are what they eat. Ergo . . .
Following me so far?
There is also that small, niggling part of my brain that says, “If you can just accomplish this one thing: a loaf of bread that tastes wonderful, holds together as a sandwich with that perfect texture, and looks amazing, you ARE an amazing person.”
I know, realistically, that my entire self-worth isn’t rolled up in that soft, pliable dough, smooth enough to be Mary’s sweet cheeks, but sometimes it feels that way. Like, I will be a failure if I don’t make it happen. Like I am not the mother I should be. A particular low point was after a batch of bread that had too much fat in it (yes, there IS such a thing as too much fat in bread – makes it crumble, I know this because I’ve been trying to perfect this now for two months straight) was when Lizzie said to me, “Mom, I want you to get the bread again in the plastic bag from the factory.”
Reality check from the seven year old. To quote Candice, “Bread is the staff of life, for God’s sake, they’ve been making it since the beginning of time! Why does it have to be this hard?”
I’ve found though, that it really isn’t about the bread per se. No matter what it is that I produce, if there is nothing else, the kids will eat it. I have discovered though, that focusing on something such as this gives us an “out.” If we get involved in a project, we have another purpose, a way to escape the reality of life that is either too scary at times, too sad, or too monotonous. We have something else to think about – the elusive “light at the end of the tunnel” that we will finally be able to say we’ve reached. It really is the small victories in life after all.
If I can say anything about myself, its that I (usually) learn quickly. I can make mistakes, apologize and move on fairly easily. It has taken me two months of testing recipes to realize that they are all very similar. Something Candice and I discussed the other day is the definition of crazy. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of crazy. Despite changes in humidity and temperature, if I make the same recipe over and over and want it to be different, I am . . . crazy. Wait…
This is why we are always after the next recipe. They are all very similar, flour, yeast, butter, milk, salt, sugar/honey and water. This is pretty much it. Techniques and amounts vary though and, for some reason, yield different results and textures. Obviously, different flours will as well. One cup of whole wheat flour to replace one of the six cups of white makes a difference, both in texture and taste. I’ve wondered what would happen if I used sparkling water instead of tap water? Would bottled water make a difference?
These are the things I think about. Maybe the definition of crazy has changed?
*insert maniacal laughter here*
Ultimately, I know I may never achieve the perfect loaf of bread. Or, if by some miracle I do, I know I will probably never be able to reproduce it. There are just too many variables: the humidity, the outside/inside temperature, is the sky that perfect color of blue with just enough clouds to set it off? And there is of course, the biggest reason why: I don’t live in France where, apparently all of the above is exactly right to make bread all the freaking time. Nevertheless, I will continue my endeavors in trying to make the perfect loaf of bread, just like the ones from the factory. Oh, right, they use preservatives, I don’t want THAT!
See? It really IS a paradigm shift!
See how they look the same?? Insanity.
I will continue to trudge towards the elusive light. After all, there are as many bread recipes as there are people, practically (see above comment regarding the beginning of time…). Candice has a whole slew of them, she will do some, I will do the others and we will continue to compare results.
In the meantime? It’s picture day, they want homemade oatmeal (the kind that takes 7 minutes to cook), and the bus comes in 15 minutes.