April 8, 2009

Epiphany one: bread does not show up by itself. This may seem obvious to some of you. Nonetheless, I've been testing for months now and I'm ready to publish the results. If you don't make bread, you don't have bread. I am getting really tired of biscuits and scones and quick breads. Our daily bread has been quick this year. We start the day with something hot, fresh, and fast. We have not had toast or PB&J in ages. I'm craving grilled cheese. Not to mention, some kind of bread that hangs around the kitchen feeding people more than 10 minutes.

After washing lentils and starting them to simmer for dinner. And after setting out white beans to soak for tomorrow, I relented. I decided to make slicing bread. You know, bread with yeast. Slow bread. So I opened a stick of butter, pulled out the small pot we use to melt such, and turned to my fresh goat's milk.

Epiphany two: we scald fresh milk to kill the lactobacillus and enzymes which might, otherwise, inhibit our yeast. This has been done since yeast bread showed up. Its an ancient edict. If you make bread, you know you are supposed to scald the milk. Every recipe says so. Of course, with pasteurisation, this becomes redundant. But AH HA! Does this not prove the difference between raw and pasteurised? Is it not right there, written into all the recipes from all the Great Grandmothers, since before the guv'ment got interested in our milk? I do believe it is. But this is a digression from my point.

Bread does not show up unless you make it. It never walks in the door by itself. This sort of behavior simply is not in the nature of bread. I kept thinking about this while I kneaded. I had several long minutes to think, in fact. I was suddenly reminded of very wise words Fourmother once spoke, "It was like watching someone drown in knee deep water. No matter what anyone told her, she never saw that all she had to do was stand up."

Do you love that? I could list many women without even pausing to think, who appear committed to drowning themselves in shallow water. Much in the same way I've been waiting for bread to appear, of its own accord, in my kitchen. People who refuse to stand up. They don't want to hear about standing up. They don't want to think about standing up. Apparently, they like living face down in the water. However, they can't like it all that much, because we sure do hear a lot about how awful their lives are. There sure is a lot of splashing and flailing - complaining, even. Ever notice how much effort folks will put into their own failure?

Someone's therapist said anther thing I just adore. I want a poster. Are you ready? Steel yourself, because its a whopper of a notion. I've warned you. Here it is. "Every moment of self-pity is an admission that you have no intention of changing."

Please, all of you, stand and clap. I am standing and clapping. I could also admit, right here, that I stood in the dark in our bathroom last night, holding a beer and quietly sobbing. I am not immune to sorrow, even for my self. Still, I am deliciously shattered by this truth. It thrills me.

Because its true. Grow up. Make your bread. Get on with it.

While I was kneading today, I began to wonder why humans seem so committed to flailing and crying about the bread that, never the less, refuses to appear spontaneously. The answer did not walk in the door and announce itself. But one idea sparked. We certainly raise our children in institutions which begin by pushing them face down into knee deep water and ordering them to fight their way out. And we certainly do hold them there for THIRTEEN LONG YEARS. If we wanted to design a program to institutionalize this one compulsion, we succeeded.

We teach children in school, every day, to ignore their own intuition, authority, and the noble and deeply profound truth that humans were born to learn. If we don't need to hold humans down to teach them, what else can the children infer, except that they are expected to flail and fight for an elusive and odd dependence. And this dependence does not seem to work very well. Does it? It is almost like waiting for the bread to make itself.


MOM #1 said...

So true.

And, of course, now you have my mouth watering for fresh homemade bread.

Sara said...

Wow, those two ideas are very powerful. It can be like drowning in knee deep water.

Thanks for the thoughtful post!

rae said...

Oh, Cowgirl. What. A. Post.

Anonymous said...

In this particular game of Telephone, you quote me quoting a friend's therapist, and you GOT IT EXACTLY RIGHT. That's not supposed to happen.

What I found after being, in essence, snapped like a twig by 13 years of public education, was that everything following it was a tremendous bonus. My life and mind opened like sunflowers, and in college and in graduate school I was very driven to shape my education -- if I had to fulfill x number of requirements, they were going to be filled in the most daring way possible. And nothing and no one could have stopped me; no one wants to, at that stage of the game.

Did I have a point, Miss Katherine? I think it was: it's always the right time to walk away from our childhood damage.

You also said to me (fourteen years ago) (no, JOE said this) that bread does best in a yeasty world. Your kitchen is either yeasty or it isn't, and the more bread you bake the more you are moved to bake, and the better it turns out. I hope that's true for you. Love love you.

Katherine said...

There are no studies proving that school makes children smarter. School is a place we put children, so that adults have more free time. Curiously, adults tend not to want to look at the idea that it might damage children to run them through a broken system for shallow reasons.

Imagine if Haven, or any of us, had showed up unsnapped, as it were. I think its an idea worth discussing. Imagine if we took those thirteen years to impart two ideas: when you are drowning, stand up. And also STOP DOING WHAT DOES NOT WORK. But then, that would be anathema to the system itself.

Annie said...

I'm standing up and clapping. Really I am.

Wow. Must. Bookmark. Post. For all those self pitying days. In fact I'm going to title it that.

Muah. Love you Katherine.

Amanda Enclade said...


"We certainly raise our children in institutions which begin by pushing them face down into knee deep water and ordering them to fight their way out."

I am posting this on my side bar

Heather said...

There is so much I want to say, but am unable to form thoughts into words so beautifully as you can. You can take this bread/life analogy and run with it though. Like how people just go buying their bread, mediocre and paling in comparison to the quality they could make for themselves, without any thought to how it's made. Not wanting to know.

Mommylion said...

Each paragraph of this post has a gem in it. Beautiful, K.

Amy said...

I love this post! I keep coming back again to re-read it. It feels like an excerpt from a book that I need to go buy and keep on my shelf to read over and over. So, where's the rest of the book?!

Anonymous said...

So why is it that you, after being "snapped" were able to open like a sunflower and drink it all in? Was it the way your brain works, was it your upbringing? Was there someone pushing you or helping you make decisions? Sometimes I feel that children are not given all the information they need to make smart decisions. If someone had been there supporting me in high school or college I probably would have taken advantage of the many opportunities I had right in fromt of me, snapped or not. You have to have a seed to grow a plant, just like you have to plant a seed of wonder and possibility in a child and then be there to encourage them on the journey. This journey can occur in many different forums, I think.


Molly said...

2 great topics--the drowning in shallow water? Um, yes. An EXCELLENT point. Curently I am drowning in shallow water...the curious thing about this is that self-awareness doesn't always lend itself to knowing how to stand. You put your hand down for leverage and get mud that sucks you back down, or you slice your palm on a river rock, and the gasp of pain sucks more foul water into your lungs...I am trying to stand. Wish me luck...

As for schools, it is such a sad thing that so many schools are broken. As a teacher, I feel it's my job to teach two things: the ability to conform IF necessary AND the most important thing--how NOT to conform. It's a difficult line to toe. Most of my students wish I'd stop yelling "Personal Responsibility, People!!!" at them...but still don't understand why it's not their mothers faults for not putting homework in the backpacks. Some conformity is necessary. Most is excessive and only for the convenience of other people--usually never oneself.

Bravo, Katherine! Another beautiful post.

Katherine said...

Now I forgot about conformity. Conformity just doesn't come up as an issue, here at home. The kids are free. But I think people get conformity confused with manners. Manners are huge with me. We all need them, right?

Molly, (((((hugs)))) I've spent so much of my life trying to keep my head above water. We all struggle.

X-goddess! I think we're born with all of our intellectual, creative, wondrous, gifted seeds already on board. They do get nurtured in many different ways. I can agree with that.

And all of y'all, thank you for the support. Thank you so much!

Mom's Sewing Vault said...

[standing up and clapping]