I decided that this day, Sunday, November 1, 2015, I would bring some levity to my gentle readers by telling the story of how the nearly lost art of yeast bread making gives us a lesson in mindfulness.
In my work with women in a half-way house in Gloucester, Massachusetts, all with histories deeply laden with trauma and manifest in drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, domestic battery, self injury, and/or eating disorders, I observed how incredibly difficult it was for each woman to focus upon the moment of the present. To be able to direct the mind to harmonize with the senses and to synthesize these with lyrics to the music of that which was being formed by their will.
There is a magic that lay within the steps we take to compose good, hearty, sustaining bread, starting with the ingredients and taking that leap of faith that is required in following the recipe.
I learned to make bread when I was a teenager and had great oversight and approval from my grandmother, who, to this day, I owe undying gratitude for her wisdom and example. It was she who helped me learn to allow my 5 senses to direct me through the process and to experience the defeat that comes from taking short cuts. Funny I should think of Grama on this day, All Saint’s Day, though my Grama was, in fact, a saint by all definitions of the word.
Notice the change in how the yeast is activated. How, when adding additional flour to the batter, the ancestry of our product is revealed in a mass of goo.
Kneading the dough reveals the emerging character of our anticipation. Heels of the hands dig into the dough. Turn it half way around. Repeat the process. Ten Minutes, maybe 12. Notice how our once gooey, sticky blob has coalesced into a sphere that seems to be bound by a silky sheath.
It rises and doubles in about an hour. Again, observe, test, judge.
And so on. I wish I had a penny for each moment of amazement, gasp of delight or, perhaps at tickled disbelief, that erupted in that kitchen in a big old house on Gloucester’s Back Shore, To witness amazement at the fruit of their focus. But more, to share in the result steeped in butter and dipped into the community batch of stone soup.
I hope you try this recipe and allow all of your senses to be involved in the process.