Everyone reacts a little differently to a crisis, and their reaction changes over time.
This I know.
I also know that all of California is under a shelter-at-home order, that there are currently 306 cases of Covid-19, in my county and the one right next door to me and their combined population of 2.76M, and that I and my beloveds are currently well. I keep track of the data.
I know that I hope that you and your loved ones are also well.
Other than that, really, I a few days ago I became possessed by the idea of making baguettes, and therefore did so last night. I had not made bread since third grade when my friend Alison’s mother threw her a homesteading birthday party where we also churned butter. Can’t say the experience stood me in very good stead.
I relied on the King Arthur Flour website recipe and videos. First, yesterday morning at 7am I made something called “polish.” Essentially a starter? I think? Flour, water, salt, yeast. It was supposed to sit for 14 hours, and start to bubble. Oh my gosh you guys I can be such a dope.
First, my house is cold, on purpose, but not hospitable to yeast. I don’t think the polish did whatever it was supposed to. Never mind, I forged ahead. I added more flour and water and yeast and salt, and mixed it in the bowl of a KitchenAid mixer that I never use. Yes, I have a dough hook. That part was fun, like physics in action, wobble, wobble, wobble.
But I had only skimmed the recipe before starting this project and I missed a 45-minute long step in my time estimate. By 9:33pm last night I’d only barely made a ball of dough.
It needed to rise. Then rise again. Then it had to be divided into three pieces and “turned out” onto a “lightly greased surface.” I spend a lot of time trying to keep grease off my countertops. Hey ho, butter up your granite and away you go.
I will say, watching someone shape a baguette is extra-calming. Recommended. 11/10 as Faux Fuchsia used to say in the old days.
So I shaped, and then put them into this dishtowel covered in flour. It’s called a “couche.” Kind of means “sleeper car for bread,” right? I could not believe I had to grease plastic wrap. Thought someone was playing a trick.
It was by now so far past my bedtime that club music should have started playing. The baguettes had to rise some more. But of course. I entered another universe.
Eventually, we were done. I say we because the bread had taken on a life of its own.
I supposed I’d been expecting a spectacular outcome–either the best baguette ever made in an old suburban oven, or, a very, very long Saltine. This was neither. Just bread.
Then, suddenly, I had to have some with butter, even though it was past midnight.
As I ate, it occurred to me that maybe I’d undertaken this out-of-character project because yesterday was the anniversary of my mom’s death. In her last days, I’d sometimes ask the staff where she lived if we could have butter. I’d pull the little piece of paper off the institutional pat, and smear it on the white bread the residents were allowed to have. She veritably gobbled it up.
But that isn’t something I know either.
In the face of a crisis it seems that I a) count what can be counted b) take on a project that appears to be precise and skill-intensive and somewhat mysterious, only to wind up alone in my kitchen, the night dark outside, eating a piece of mediocre bread and old butter as a treat for the woman who bore me.
I imagine your response is different; but also that it’s your very own and shines a light on something deep.
Much love and a safe weekend to all.