Sunday, April 19, 2009

Yeast: the new Prozac.

I like to cook. I don't like the obligatory shopping / feeding / plate cleaning ritual that seems to take over my life, but when hours are long and the fam is relaxed and one job has been neatly filed away until the next one comes along, I do like to cook. In fact, I love it. But I've never been a bread person, at least not until this year. 

A couple weeks ago, for what reason I can't remember, I was feeling low. Blue. Down. And it dawned on me, in one of those rare epiphanies that occurs when you actually identify what it is you really desire, that I wanted to bake a loaf of bread. I called a trusted baker friend, got the low down on the perfect loaf of bread, and got started. By the end of the day, the last crumbs of that yeasty wonder were being wolfed down by my kids with generous portions of butter, and we were all basking in an unusual happiness that almost only comes with making things yourself. But in the case of the bread, it was more than that. It wasn't just that we made it, it was that the thing seemed to have a warm life of its own. The texture, so belly-like. The rising. The punching-down. The yeasty smell which increases over time. The miraculous elasticity of flour, water and little else. The physical exertion required to make it yield its best—an exchange of energy that, yes, is "life". I dunno. 

Today, we made pizza. Making the dough was a simplified version of the bread process with the addition of olive oil and a different ratio of ingredients. But the same magic took over again. The yeasty rising, the alive-ness of it. The ability of the dough to forgive and forget and succeed brilliantly despite the pummeling best efforts of strong hands and small weaker ones. 

It's my new drug of choice. Not that I had one before. But let's just say that it works as an antidepressant as well as the centerpiece of a warm day spent around home and hearth. Not to mention the fact that it's the perfect antidote to so much else in life that isn't quite right and downright wrong. —Charlotte

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful. Several months ago somebody asked why I like to bake so much, what it is about baking bread and going through all that 'trouble.' Which struck me as funny. 'Trouble' to make something real and deliciously satisfying instead of watching TV? 'Trouble' to give birth to a kind of life form that's not instant or pre-packaged or chemically-infused or laden with pesticides we can't even name? Baking, cooking, is like any other act of creativity. We lose ourselves in it and find ourselves too. We make it out of what seems to be thin air. We get out of the way and let the real job - the real miracle - happen without our interference. It IS actual prozac you're so right. To feel dough change right beneath our fingers, that amazing moment, is always humbling. It's ancient. Simple. Momentous. Gratifying. Poetic. Potent. Edible art. Oh man you make me so hungry. Janet