So, it's a Friday night in August, sweltering hot (yet I refuse to turn on the air conditioning) and I get the urge to bake some bread. Great idea! Turn on the oven and make the house just a little bit more unbearable!
But I can't help it. I am intoxicated by all smells of bread baking - the rising, fermenting yeasty smells. I equate these smells with comfort and home and all things right. Yes, I grew up in a house that frequently baked. My mother is very accomplished at making theme cakes and had the decked-out decorative icing kit. My father, specifically, would bake breads and tortes and cookies all weekend long. Some of my most vivid memories are of the excitement I would feel when I was allowed to help sift the flour and measure all of the ingredients. We would lay waxed paper out on the kitchen table and sift the flour over it, crank crank crank, until it formed a beautiful mountain of fluffed flour. I also remember all of the times I got in trouble for touching the finished products. Before my father wised up and put all cakes and pies under a cake dome, I would just have to lightly touch the icing (after being explicity told NOT to do so) ... of course, leaving my stupid fingerprint on the polished chocolate cakes.
It must be in my genetic makeup - because these urges to bake always hit at strange hours of the night. When most people would be winding down, relaxing in front of the tv, I see the clock click to 11:00 and I think to myself, "Mmm, wouldn't some brownies be nice?" Then, I'm pulling out the cookbooks, scouring the internet and unloading the cabinets to find all of the ingredients.
But, damn it, baking is important. It ties into the slow food, local food, organic, natural movement. Every time I follow a home-made recipe, I always wonder at what point does the factory throw in high fructose corn syrup? It's really gross if you think about it. And I want my kids to know that bread is not something only to be found in plastic packaging with a company's name on it. (Speaking of, I remember a friend in college who said he didn't know that people could actually bake pies until he left home. He literally thought they could only be purchased in a store.) Just like with our vegetable garden, this is part of a life's education that all children should have.
In these times that everyone keeps harping that we're going back to basics and it's SO hard, I don't get it. I've lived on a budget for so long that I am thrilled to figure out yet another thing I can make myself. I grew up surrounded by the delicious smells of home-made bread, not to mention the satisfying taste! I wonder what America's next generation is going to remember about food and their childhoods... but I have a feeling that my own kids are going to think that it's normal to see their mother, sweating in the kitchen in August, because of a silly disposition to bake bread.