By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.
Way back in September, perhaps on the 17th or the 21st of that month, I proclaimed that my family had entered “The Autumn of Bread”. Sounds regal, right? Well, it is. For the last 2 and 1/2 months I have been trying to bake a new type of bread each week. Some weeks I do more than one loaf, and some weeks I just repeat a previous hit. ‘The Autumn of Bread’ has been wonderful. If
you don’t believe me, ask my wife.
Let me give you a little background on why I am doing this.
First off, I need to explain the name.
A couple years ago, my brother and sister-in-law went to Ireland. When they returned, they declared it was going to be the ‘year of the sausage’. They had eaten so much processed, salted meat on
the Emerald Isle, that they decided to bring the practice home with them. That sodium-filled year was inspiring. Ever since, whenever my wife and I become a bit obsessed with a foodstuff we jokingly name the season after said foodstuff: ‘The year of the Latte'; ‘The Winter of the Brussel Sprout'; ‘The Season of the Waffle'; Etc.
But, ‘The Autumn of Bread’ has beaten all previous comers. For all you bread-bakers, you understand why.
If you have never baked bread, what are you waiting for?
Here are a couple reasons everyone should bake bread, at least at some point in their lives:
- Fresh baked bread straight out of the oven may be the best, most satisfying food a human being can eat. No joke.
- Baking bread calls for creativity. The methods, the flours, the flavors, the herbs, the designs, the tastes. Once you have the basic skills down, you can really play around and try new things.
- Baking homemade, leavened bread is an amazing science experiment. If you have kids, you can show them how them the physico-chemical right in your own kitchen. Actually, why don’t science teachers use bread-making as a teaching tool? It is microbiology and chemistry lesson in one. Two great tastes that taste great together.
- Scientific? Sure, but also mystical. Bread grows seemingly on its own, gaining airiness because of the ancient tiny lifeforms that are working their microscopic butts off. We help them, they help us. So symbiotic.
- For me as a historian, I feel tied to the past when I make bread. It is so central to so many cultures and rituals that bread has some magical humanistic quality that is hard to pin down.
- Last, it is a gamble, Thus, when you win, the payoff is so rewarding. Unlike whipping up many foods, bread has the capibility to be a huge disaster and waste of time. This may sound like a negative, but it means that once you have the skill down, you really feel accomplished once you complete it.
As the solstice quickly approaches, and with it, the dregs of winter, I wonder if the Autumn of Bread should become the Winter of Yeast? Let me ask my wife and kids. I think I know the answer.