Monday, July 6, 2015

Kitchen Work + Cleaning = Baking Pause

The bowls, whisks, la cloches, and other accoutrements of bread making are sitting neatly on tables and floors around the house while some renovation gets done. Not a gut renovation, which sounds like a ton of fun, though extremely expensive, but enough of a project that most cabinets and drawers had to be emptied. 

I'd like to say I am taking the time to peruse recipes and plan out the next bunch of breads, but I am focused on cleaning my office/art studio/study/small walk-in closet. When that essential space gets beyond a certain clutter level, I find it impossible to do anything other than clean, though usually my cleaning stops at tidying up. This time, full blast review of books, stuff waiting to be put elsewhere, jewelry I never wear, scarves, shoes, and children's artwork over a decade old that has been sitting under my dresser (awaiting decision of whether to be put in the "special box," now actually three large plastic containers with paintings, drawings, awards, and assorted written work from before pre-school through college).

Now that my art projects have expanded beyond a notebook kept of collages with calligraphy and drawings, to actual paintings, and, perhaps, an installation of old tiles, I need the space to reorganize the art supplies and neatly store the language notebooks. The neatening is very satisfying. I can see the pretty green paper on my dresser and the shelves are no longer jammed with stuff.

Now I can ponder the next stage of making bread.

On bread
The bread requires something I have not previously committed to: an organized schedule throughout the week when bread-related decisions are made, grocery lists added to, checking is done that needed ingredients are on the premises, and dough - or some preliminary stage of it - is started at the proper time. Avoiding starting too late, whereupon I am sleepy and lazy, is a key concern. The one task I have attended to is feeding the starter on time. 

Something else to incorporate into the schedule, though it only takes a few minutes and a lovely piece of equipment, is grinding my own flour. This goes toward starting before laziness sets in, toward deciding on the next bread by Thursday evening, taking out the starter on Friday evening or Saturday morning, and generally beginning the next dough on Saturday afternoon or evening.

Ritual and practice
Like religion, study, exercise, or anything to be taken seriously in life, bread requires presence in the moment and rituals - even homespun, just-for-me rituals - to support a practice. It is a Sabbath unto itself in the pause and preparation called for. Rushing, multi-tasking, and fitting something in when one can least take a breath and pay attention will not do. Bread now asks more of my time, particularly in the timing and quality of that time. 

How important is bread anyway?
Dust does not go well with bread. It just doesn't. I do not want to even start a dough with the fine layer of construction debris everywhere. So, there it was on the cusp of July Fourth and there was no bread for the guests, no sour cream in the house to mix the coffee cake batter. But soon we will have new cabinets and countertops and a chalkboard pantry door.

I've no mind right now for organizing and schedules. Family needs attending to, the dog is growing old, and a dear friend's son was just killed in an accident. How's that for making bread seem small and unimportant?

Death intrudes
A lovely, promising boy - okay, young man - of 24 was ripped from this world in the most arbitrary, but expected way. He was killed in a car accident. I say expected because there are so many thousands of these accidents that they are completely foreseeable, not each in particular, but that they will occur. One moment, he was there, and the next not. A dividing line forever for his parents and his brother, and the truck driver as well who was on the other side of the crash.

I know what it is like to lose someone in an instant. A punch to the gut that lingers on. An unwelcome shadow who lurks beside us for months or years. And so much more so for my friend, who lost a child.

And the kitchen
Soon we will not feel like our sweet contractor is living with us. The shelf and drawer liners will be in; pots, pans, dishes, glasses and all else will again be in place. But, honestly, I don't know where I will be. This is a time for doubt and I am avoiding the making of bread.

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