BEDJ Day 1: Foodie Friday (and why baking bread is like going to a museum)

I’ve joined a group of awesome bloggers (Amber, Heather, Edwin, GirlFrmMars, Tom, Peter, Ashley, and Kitty) for BEDJ (Blog Every Day in June).  It’s the first of the month, so here’s my first such post!

I come from a healthy line of Anglo-Saxon-Caledonians. You know Brienne of Tarth from Game of Thrones? I want to fist-bump her in solidarity of extremely tall, extreme pale-ness. I’m stocky, built to survive winters. My nickname in high school was Spud Girl, literally, for my love of potatoes and the fact that part of my family came over to Canada at some point courtesy of the Great Irish Potato Famine c 1850.  I like me some carbohydrates.

And since today’s recommended BEDJ theme is Food I wanted to talk to you about one of the most mind-blowing foods I’ve ever made: bread.

Bread. Warm from the oven, fluffy on the inside, crunchy on the outside. A smell most intoxicating.

Many years ago I went to school in an Italian medieval town (yes, it was as awesome as it sounds) and every morning as I strolled out to grab breakfast, the winding streets and staircases would be infused with the smell of baking bread. When I smell baking bread I am instantly transported to those cobblestoned streets. Years later when I went to school in Paris (yes, also as awesome) I ate a baguette a day. I exaggerate not. I don’t even mean sliced with dinner. I mean taking bites out of it, whole, as I walked around between classes.

Have you ever made bread? I’m not talking set-it-and-forget-it bread machines. I mean flour and water and yeast. And proofing and knocking back and proofing again and baking in the oven. I only got in to it recently. It’s a magical event. Really.

There is something so connecting about making food. I mean, really making it from the basest and rawest of ingredients. It gives me the same feeling I get from museums, like I’m experiencing some shared space/time/tradition of human civilization.

I once hosted a New Years’ Eve party where all the food and drink came from the Book of Gode Cookery. I was using ingredients and techniques they used in the medieval ages. I was tasting the same flavour profiles that folks from far far away and long long ago had. It’s like how being in a museum and looking at artifacts makes me feel connected to the millions of tourists who’ve done the same thing, and the curator who selected it for installation, and the archaeologist who brought it in, and the individuals who used it, and the artisan who created it… I’m a part of the communal museum experience. Making bread with water and yeast and flour by hand makes me feel connected to the bread-making tradition, going back thousands of years. Like ancient Egypt times.

Am I getting too deep here? Possibly. You take these dry ground bits and yeast and add water and maybe oil and depending on the ratios and how long they sit together and how much you manipulate it and how long it rests afterwards and where you let it rest and how long you bake it you end up with something totally different — it’s like a million different variations are available at your fingertips. And as I’m following the recipe and hoping the end product will be a success, I feel part of a grand bread-making experience.

It’s addictive. It’s also time consuming.  After all the proofing, knocking back, waiting, and then baking, you only get to eat something you started make hours, or even days earlier.

When a meal can come together in a matter of microwaved minutes, with no personal direct involvement in its making, there is something so ritualistic about making bread. And it’s just lovely to know there are millions of others who have, and will, experience the sights, smells, tastes, and touches of making bread too.

Similarly, you can always flit through hundreds of wikipedia pages of ancient artifacts, but there is something so ritualistic about the visit to the museum. And it’s just lovely to know there are millions of others who have, and will, experience the sights, smells, tastes, and touches of visiting museums too.

In closing, bon appetit – may you experience the joys of baking bread and visiting museums often and in equal measure.

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4 thoughts on “BEDJ Day 1: Foodie Friday (and why baking bread is like going to a museum)

  1. I love this post 🙂 I also love making bread. Although I no longer consume it because I eat a paleo diet I still enjoy making it. I am a culinary student and am taking a baking lab this quarter… it has been really fun getting to learn more about the process and use awesome ovens ( Steam please! ) So yes..there is something about bread making that connects you to your food… the process is so rewarding and definitely an art 🙂

    • Thanks for commenting! Great to hear from a fellow bread-making fan. So neat that you get to take coursework in baking! I’m tempted to take a baking course at some point in the future…

  2. This makes me want to really make bread. I received a bread machine for Christmas, but have always wanted to make bread by hand. Hopefully one day!

    • Do it! And if you’re looking for a non-scary way to get in to it, I *highly* recommend this book. Step by step photographs take you by the hand through the recipe, and while it’s got your pies and cakes and all that, it shows you how to make bread loaves, breadsticks, foccacia, English muffins, tortillas, naan, and like, seriously, so many things.

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