Saturday, October 26, 2013

Bread Chronicles III - The Kneading Process

A silken cocoon
awakens beneath my hands.
Somatic rhythm
pushing, pulling:
The ebb and flow of lunar rule,
a protean transformation
graced by the gods.

Like the dough I knead, this autumn produced protean changes in me as well. The changes, some of which I cannot yet describe, can be seen, however, in the little things like taste preferences. I no longer like milk in my tea, I have a reduced desire for chocolate and, as it seems,  diluted cravings for bread, specifically my bread.

Last week I ended my blog with the question of whether I would or would not like my recently baked bread. In rereading it I found I was not clear as to why this was important or even relevant. The key was in the opening paragraph: “there is also something else lurking in my barely concealed subconscious: maybe I don’t want to like it anymore”. It was not so much a question of taste but that of choice.

I really like my bread and have so for three years. I could easily eat four, albeit small, loaves a week. Bread was my staple. For the most part I didn’t feel bad about this, it was chock full with all sorts of goodies from pumpkin and flax seeds to protein abundant millet and fibre filled kamut. But ever so often my old fears would catch up to me and suggest I was playing with fire, that I would, for example, balloon up to an inconceivable weight. It was irrational—I had been eating this way for three years and my clothes still fit—but lurking beneath my seemingly unquenchable desire for bread was this fear of no return. 

That said, my fears never really took hold because, paradoxically, making bread also provided me with a measure of safety. It gave me the gift of routine, ritual and structure. It is not that I need those things in my life but they were a leftover from childhood. As such, they had become habit. They were my default safeguards from a time when I lacked a sense of security and trusta seemingly intransigent behavioural pattern that I cling to despite the changes that have occurred.

My mother starter calls out for me from the fridge, she needs replenishing. She has but a cup of herself left.

I add:
2 ⅓ cup kamut flour
1 cup water

Knead for about 5 minutes.

I feel nascent life beneath my hands as I massage the starter, rekindling that which was asleep. I push and pull, rotate, push and pull. I contemplate my last words.  What am I really trying to say?

For most of my life I was governed by a need for safety. At first it was based on the environment but through introspection (and good therapy) I came to understand how one cannot feel secure in their surroundings if they do not feel safe inside. Years of working on myself have created a strong inner sanctuary: I feel safe in who I am, where I am going and how I am doing it.

But sometimes, and I speak in general terms here, regardless of how much work one has done, there can be a small part of us that is unwilling to change its perception. Hence, a part of me didn’t want to like the bread for fear I would lose control. And, another part, liked making bread for the twice weekly routine. 

I finish kneading the starter and cover it with a towel/plastic wrap for 8 -10 hours. A starter needs little massaging as its main purpose is to incorporate oxygen. Bread dough, however, requires about 15 minutes. This not only develops the protein strands of which provides the structure for it to rise into but, as a double bonus, tones my biceps. Which, of course, is of primal importance if we believe what the celeb mags tell us.

Bread making, then, is both my safety and my fear. Regardless of the fact that I feel an internal sense of safety there is still a part of me that wants routine and ritual to guarantee this safety.  What this exercise taught me is that this fearful part needs to come out in the open and see times have changed: I am no longer a little girl living in chaos.

The question I now ask is can I change like the bread dough that transforms beneath my hands? Have I built enough structure/safety to allow my fears to relax? Can this small part of me that still fears life trust that I, as an adult, can take care of myself and be safe in who I am without relying on structure and rigidity?

The answer to these questions, funny enough, is answered by the original one: did I like the bread? I did. The bread is good, tasty in fact, but I’ve changed: I no longer need it.

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