I am rarely alone while baking. All day and into the night I listen. The words keep me company through hours that can be achingly long, and block out some of the noise and chaos of the kitchen I share with a half dozen other businesses. I often start the day with news podcasts (oh, for a radio tuned to the gentle repetition of NPR, as in the kitchens of my childhood!). I listen to The Takeaway or Up First for the headlines, NPR Politics for the view inside the Beltway, Intercepted for a more cynical twist on the same, KUOW for happenings around the Sound. I am usually still alone in the kitchen at this point, the first desperate rush of mixing and shaping over, settled into the steadier rhythms of fermentation. I am moving fast and sure-handed. I reach for words as deep as still water, for ideas that will carry me like a river. Thich Nhat Hanh on mindfulness, or Atul Gawande on death. I am invigorated by the work and by the words. I am all possibility and hunger.
The day crests, doughs mixed, temperature climbing despite the open door to the alley, oven on a continuous burn. I begin to tire. Just slightly. Not physically, yet, but my mind slows and my ambition flags. I focus on one step and then the next. There is no room anymore for philosophy, or natural history, or cultural criticism. I reach instead for a story, a bold narrative to carry me on. This week it was The Dispossessed. Another week Americanah, or All the Light We Cannot See: novels carried as much by the power of their story as by their writing.
Around the twelfth or fourteenth hour I begin to fall. My feet ache, and my knees. My eyes are gritty. I am sticky with sweat and flour. The work has been going well, but it is far from over, and I want only to sit down. To lie down. To close my eyes, just for a little while. This is when I turn to the kind of books I might be embarrassed to read in public. Romances, thrillers, young adult novels: the books you might pass in the window of an airport book shop, or see stacked on the sidewalk outside a used book store for a dollar. I do not care anymore about the quality of the writing, as long as it isn’t distractingly bad. I don’t care about character development, or research accuracy. I am uncultured and exhausted. I want witty dialog, action, and a tidy happily-ever-after. These books are like junk food: immediately satisfying, distractingly salty-sweet, easily over-indulged, empty. But usually they are just enough of a treat to get me through the last hours and home to bed.
Red & White, Mountain Rye, Vollkornbrot, Country Rye
Bittersweet Chocolate and Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Exploded) Croissant + Pain au Chocolat
Rosemary Sea Salt
See you soon!
Owner | Baker
(I’m introducing a new postscript to my weekly newsletter with the best of what I’ve read or listened to in the past week(ish). As with most of what I write here, this is only tangentially connected to baking, in that I listen to dozens of hours of podcasts and audiobooks every week to turn off the anxiety-inducing white roar of the commissary kitchen, and for the pure pleasure of having someone tell me stories.)
I've been thinking about this UNEP report on sustainable lifestyles, and the Quartz article on conscious consumerism that led me to it, all week. They will likely shape next week's newsletter, so, you know, if you want to do your homework, you could read them before hand...