Friday, April 30, 2010

The Baker's Privilege

Bread baking is a twice a week event in our house. I usually start it at around seven in the evening on those days when I want to be forced to stay up late to do some writing work. Since the whole process takes around five hours, that guarantees me a good solid stint of time to do what I need to do.

Bread making is such a lovely, slow, undemanding activity. It requires short bursts of concentrated effort followed by long pauses for rising which need nothing but a warm spot in which to happen. Sometimes, intent on my writing,  I may even forget the whole affair and then discover, to my surprise, a mound of dough so large and airy it looks like it could climb down off the counter and ooze out the front door. But dough is always forgiving. I punch it back down, butter the pans and shape it into loaves.

Once it's in the oven, it's almost impossible to forget. Bread baking fills a house with the strong, commanding fragrance of love and good will. Though everyone else is sleeping, they often tell me the next morning how hard it was to resist the urge to struggle out of bed and come to the kitchen for a slice.

I never resist. Ravi calls it the "Baker's Privilege" and I never fail to take it. The first slice, hot and crusty, loaded with lashings of butter, ah . . .

"What happens next
Is undiminished for having happened once,
Twice, ten, a thousand times before.
Who cares if all the music that transpires

Is the fall of grit or dry seed through a cactus?
You are like a rich man entering heaven
through the ear of a raindrop. Listen now again."

The simple joy of bread, the elemental pleasures of grain and honey and milk and leavening, brought together in a perfect slice. Twice a week, without fail. Twice a week, after midnight in my kitchen. I understand why Jesus chose bread.


Manju Singhania said...

Ahhh.....How about sharing the wonderful receipe Jo ?

Sheri said...

I like the image of you writing late at night as others sleep and sweet scents fill the house. Mmmmm.

ana @ i made it so said...

this is wonderful! ... though you know, a warm spot might be an easier thing for you than for me. during our winters, at least :) the counters and stovetops are so cold, and my toes are just curling at the thought of bare feet on the tile on a january day! but mmmm i can almost smell the bread from here. there really is nothing like that first slice. baker's privilege indeed!

Jo Chopra McGowan said...

Sheri, thanks!

ana, you wouldn't believe it, but our winters are cold too. Not like yours, but with no central heating and homes built to withstand the fierce summer, it feels just as bad. Stone floors, marble counters . . . for winter baking, I have to let the dough rise on top of the preheated oven.

Manju, haven't I given you that recipe YET??? You should have asked Paula!