While we were in the hotel, I started reading the book Bread Alone, a novel about a woman of roughly my age who is essentially a trophy wife. When her husband informs her that he needs space, she flees to her best friend in Seattle, and starts baking bread, something she hasn't really done since a foreign exchange trip in college, where she apprenticed in a boulangerie in France.
Interspersed throughout the book are recipies for everything from peasant bread to Tassajara's banana yeast bread to pumpkin muffins (a personal favorite). This book, like A Year in Provence made me want to taste everything. Alas, when I began to read, even room service had shut down for the night.
I finished the book last night, and dreamed about making bread with my grandfather. Bread baking was one of the hobbies he acquired in the seventies, so I'm really the only grandchild who got to participate. My cousins say I was his favorite, but I think it was more that I was there.
In any case, I remember the smell of the cornmeal in the bread pans, and I remember him teaching me about sourdough starters, and how they worked, and I remember that he had this metal bowl with a crank for stirring dough (it never occurred to him to use my grandmother's stand mixer, or maybe the mixer was dead by then.)
The last time a book really put me in the baking urge was eons ago when I read The Sourdough Wars by Julie Smith (great mystery novelest, btw), and this book has also sparked the urge. All day today at work, I wanted to rush to Barnes and Noble and pick up The Tassajara Bread Book and perhaps some other books on bread. That didn't happen, because I didn't leave work til eight, and by then I was grumpy and tired, and Fuzzy and I were too hungry to do anything but eat and veg in front of Inside the Actor's Studio.
Before I came upstairs, though, I tossed 1/4 cup of white flour, and 1/4 cup of wheat flour, and an equal measure of water, into a ceramic bowl, and stirred it into a paste, covered it with a wet towel, and left it on the back of the stove. Tomorrow when I come home, it'll be time for the first refreshment, and by the weekend, I should have decent starter. It actually works better (faster) if you toss in a little rye flour, but I didn't have any. Oh, well.
I can't wait to knead the first dough, to shape the loaves, to smell that fresh bread smell wafting through my house. True, I have a bread machines, and that's great for basic stuff, but it's not the same as shaping it myself.
Not just yeast, but little bits of nostalgia and imagination.
And since the bread machine has a jam cycle, maybe I'll make marmalade in it, so it won't feel ignored.
Spores! by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.