Growing up, there was a time before my Mother had to go to work when she gardened and baked bread all the time. Helping her weed and pick and knead and mix formed some of my earliest memories, and no doubt have much to do with how important those same rituals are to me now- and why I’m so pleased to pass them along to Milo.
The smell of bread baking has to be one of the great human sensual touchstones- maybe even the defining smell of civilization. And this delicious incense got me thinking about the other, subtler ways in which baking bread gratifies all the senses. Apart from the smell of baking, there’s the captivatingly tangy and alive smell of sourdough starter colonizing a ball of dough, developing gluten and creating a matrix of bubbly goodness. There’s the satisfying hollow thump of a properly baked loaf, and the little ticks of of a cooling loaf as tiny pieces of the crust spall onto the counter. And then the crackling of the crust when it is cut and bitten. There’s the heat of the loaf right out of the oven, and the warmth in the hands as it’s admired, and the contrast between crusty crunch and crumby chew. Obviously it’s beautiful to look at, and to eat, but those are hardly unique to bread. All food appeals to all the senses to varying degrees, but there seems to be more of a five-way tie with bread. Or maybe I’m just biased by the here-and-nowness of it all.
It makes a dreary winter Sunday better, that much is for sure. And it’s not even quite winter yet.