house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Bread is Back

Two weeks ago (as a rule,when blogging I'm at least two weeks behind) we went to a bread-making workshop in rural Galicia, not far from Vigo. The day was tentatively sunny and bursting with an assortment of expectations. I was looking forward to bread-making tips and infallible recipes. Moona, it turns out, expected a good walk. The kids foresaw only endless boredom.

Surprising, pleasantly so, how many people turned up. Beyond the hippy and the eternally hopeful, people who appeared to come from jarringly incompatible backgrounds and lifestyles lined up to see dough rise. They filed into Cesar's small living room in their woollen socks to listen, laugh, mix flour, knead, chat and wait.

Even more surprising, how much science lurks behind simple bread making. In his gentle, unprepossessing way, Cesar talked for hours, with evident passion, about bread. His speech was a mixture of advanced chemistry (enzymes, formulae, optimum temperatures) and applied biorhythm principles (lunar wheat planting and harvesting, living water). All the while, his hands were busy making dough for bread, biscuits, pizza and tagliatelle in a vast wooden vat chiselled out of a tree trunk.

What were we doing during all this?

I paid close attention to the lesson, notebook in hand. After about an hour, the page was still white and I started making notes about a short story. I love to make bread, always have, since the day (back in 1992) when Alistair showed me how on the sweltering terrace of his Dominican home. Alistair's method: flour in a bowl, add a pinch of this, a handful of that, a few drops of oil/milk/whatever, some warm water. Knead for 10 minutes, then sit down to read the newspaper while it 'does its magic'. Simple. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. You bake the bread regardless, give it different names if you must (say, 'granary bloom' versus 'unleavened', or 'OK toasted').

Look. You'll never catch me counting enzymes. If there's good bread in this house when you arrive for lunch, it'll be a result of tossing the right amount of everything in a bowl with enough living water (I DO like that idea) and sun to complete the magic.

Nikita paid close attention to Cesar's wooden vat. After five hours of intense boredom he went home and immediately started hand-chiselling his own. It's now ready (unlike this blog) and looks amazing.

Kira paid close attention to a plastic roller coaster for Barbie. She played happily with it for hours, only stopped briefly for lunch. She probably didn't notice all the dough and discussion, and still has no idea why we were there.

Moona didn't step into the house. He had a cold, so he said he had a cold and went for a vigorous walk in the forest.

In conclusion, and despite all the above, we all love bread (some of us more than they should..) More importantly, Bread is Back. With the slowly growing realisation that sliced, factory bread is about as good as eating mud, there is renewed interest in having a different type of bread, even if it means making it yourself. From here, you can go the enzyme-counting way, the milligram-counting way, or the 'throw-everything-in-and-see-what-happens' way.

If you still don't know how, ask your granny or anyone's granny before it's too late. Go for it.


At 10 February 2010 at 07:15 , Blogger Laurina said...

Monica, this is great, I'm inspired to make bread :) Laura (from Maldives) xx


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