Sunday, 3 June 2007

"Bread" published June 3

They were starting to talk. About the bread. The bread I keep making like some haunted Romany woman in a Joanne Harris novel except thus far Johnny Depp hasn’t waltzed into my kitchen and started strumming a guitar meaningfully, more’s the pity.
The reason they are talking is that unsuspecting visitors are sent home with it, all hot and wrapped in newspaper. Friends trying to get me out of the house for some social time are told they’ll have to wait until the bread has risen. And the other day I was sprung at the supermarket by a former colleague from a glamorous world I’ve long forgotten with flour all over my black jumper and a wad of dough clinging for dear life to my unbrushed hair. “How the mighty have fallen,” the speech bubble above her head flashed as we exchanged pleasantries.
My family are being unusually quiet about this latest reincarnation from busy mother of many and occasional writer, to apron wearing, yeast sniffing, Van Morrison listening baker. To be fair they have lived through other reincarnations such as the several years spent as an amateur aromatherapist concocting healing oils for every ailment, which they suspected were all just a bit of lavender oil mixed with wheatgerm oil. The hangi-in-a-pot stage was thankfully short lived due to my husband’s refusal to eat any more of it and the adopt ex-battery hens scheme never quite took off despite the month of backyard preparation and long winded treatises on the taste of freshly laid eggs. Perhaps they were actually enjoying this one. During the first week of loaves my husband returned home after being asked to pick up a bag of flour from the supermarket with two 20kg bags of the stuff. One white and one wholemeal which sat glaring at me on the kitchen floor. I calculated that at my daily rate of 1kg of flour this meant I was committed to baking loaves for another 40 days and suddenly I felt trapped. Because baking bread is a free spirited thing. Something you do when you’re avoiding writing your novel which you promised everyone you’d start on May 1st, but you didn’t. You planted broad beans, shifted the pictures around on the walls and baked bread.
The mere act of baking bread is in itself deeply therapeutic and is more art than science. Anyone can throw together the flour, sugar, water oil and yeast to make a loaf but you need to be in the right head space to make a truly wonderful bread.
There must be Van Morrison on the stereo;Astral Weeks is good for white, and Best of Van Morrison does a good wholemeal. You must also be in a good mood. Not an “Oh what a beautiful morning” superficial good mood, more a feeling right with the world genuinely nurturing mood which radiates well being. Something mothers generally find able to slip into from time to time. And you must be gentle. With the yeast, with the kneading, everything must be peaceful, flowing and deeply entrenched in the Grey Lynn equivalent of Eastern mysticism. Which was all very well for the first few weeks of loaves. But then the family started leaving the crusts with the over confidence of people who were becoming used to having fresh bread baked every day. The novelty, which was me, had worn off. The only slightly diminished 40kgs of flour continued to cast menacing looks in my direction and threatened to become infested with weevils if I didn’t hurry up and use it. Suddenly the yeast refused to bubble, the kneading gave me a stitch so severe I momentarily thought I was having a heart attack, and the loaves came out stubbornly small like little hurt souls.
So the last batch of bread was made. Four loaves of cottage white (two with a light dusting of parmesan) one citrus rye and a multi grain. Van has been put to the back of the CD shelf and the novel has begun. But only after I planted the potatoes and went to the caravan, which is the way I started the last book. I have returned to my former self, busy mother of many and occasional writer and life continues on as usual while I attempt to adjust to the people who have moved into my head and insist that I sit down and write about them every day. You would not believe what they have been getting up to.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

whaa? buy a bread maker, you know, one of those shelf stackers you so keen to cultivate could do the job for $10 cash an hour if its all a bit too hard.