Saturday, October 17, 2009

Baking Bread


Lately I have been trying my hand at baking bread. I don't have a bread making machine; I'm doing it the old-fashioned way. I'm sure it has something to do with fall. The chilly air makes it pleasant to have the oven turned on. The aroma of baking bread mixes nicely with the smells of wood smoke in the air, ripening apples, drying leaves. Then too, autumn is naturally a time of turning inward. The need to prepare oneself physically, mentally, and spiritually for the coming dark days of winter is urgent. So, baking bread? Yes, it addresses the trio of preparedness needs.

Bread feeds the body, but the act of making bread is a physical and mental workout in itself. The last bit of flour that can be mixed into the dough with a spoon requires muscular effort and determination. Kneading in yet more flour targets biceps and triceps as well as any gym routine (unless, maybe, you are a competitive body builder). At the same time, the push-fold-turn-push motions of the kneading feels as relaxing as standing on the beach watching waves break on the shoreline. After ten minutes or so of kneading bread dough, it is possible for me to reach a meditative state.

On some level, baking bread taps into my relationships with and memories of my mother and grandmother--both bakers of delicious breads. My grandmother made loaves of bread every week. My mother made special breads, rich with spices, nuts, and raisins, for Christmas and Easter. Even beyond the link to my family history, the alchemy of bread dough rising and then of dough turning to bread in the heat of the oven connects me to an ancient wisdom, something almost mystical. Samhain is coming. A new year starts when the old one passes, and I can make magik right here in my kitchen.

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