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.