I’m writing this from my girlfriends kitchen in Haddon Heights. Her mother is sitting and listening to NPR while knitting, while my girlfriend has just recently un-banished me from the living room where she is wrapping presents.
I’m also typing this while I wait for my focaccia dough to proof, and debate what dessert I can make for us all to have this Christmas Eve (perhaps something to go with the boozy eggnog we currently have sitting in the fridge?)
It’s been a while since I really had an experience like this around the holidays. I’ve spent the last few months in a frantic haze- finishing school, baking cakes, arranging my schedule and so on- so this quiet, meditative moment comes as a welcome relief. The fact that I am feeling this meditative lull while baking bread is not lost on me, and reminds me of one of my favorite baking quotes-
“[Breadbaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells… there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel, that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.” ~M.F.K. Fisher
In my previous post, I expressed my feelings about how the holiday season can encourage us to treat others. Baking bread, I feel, is a perfect example of how this holiday season should encourage us to treat ourselves.
Breadbaking is at once a simple and complicated business. A time-consuming activity that provides a lot of down time, an enterprise in which one person works and orchestrates, but all can share.
Sitting a few feet from me, my dough proofs. The work was mine. The thought and planning for it were mine. This rest I enjoy while my dough does it’s thing is also mine- but the results will be shared with everyone.
As easy as it is to get wrapped up in getting for others, giving for others, buying for others, doing for others- every part of that can (and should) consist of just a little wholesome selfishness. My girlfriend and her family will love the focaccia, but I will also have enjoyed baking it, and this quiet peace as it proofs. There is another saying that I love- “An artist earns themselves three blessings- the first is in the work, the second is in the completion, and the third is in giving it away.”
To all my friends out there, I wish you a splendid holiday season. I wish you happy baking, happy work, and happy results.
Stay warm, and