Thanksgiving Bread

On the day preceding Thanksgiving I made bread. Festive bread for the occasion: laden with cranberries and walnuts in a base of oats, buttermilk and honey dough. This year I added an extra ingredient: I brought a camera to the process, recording each stage with thorough attention to the bread’s becoming. Not that I havn’t taken photos of bread-making before. I have…. and have even posted a blog to accompany the shots. But since acquiring a better camera, I bring a new intensity to shooting any photograph, and this time cranberries and walnuts pop forth in delectable spontaneity toward the camera lens.

Another element was also present. I was beset by my usual holiday reluctance; there was the stress of fulfilling my yearly role as family baker. And I was tired. Thankfully, the camera added interest, objectivity improved my focus, and the idea of sharing visuals as well as eventual consumation helped me through the day.

The bowl continues to receive ingredients:

warm buttermilk, thick honey,

dollops of soft butter, floating yeast.

The bowl sits still

while the oats, cranberries, walnuts

soak and grow plump.

(The yeast now foams on the surface,

beckoning the heavy lightness of the flour.)

The glazed interior of the bowl endures

the self-same scraping of its sides.

The wooden tool held in my hand

is dulled by time and use.

These simple instruments

have grown accustomed

to each other and to me.

It is now time

for a different sort of intimacy:

The push and pull of the living dough

against my hands.

My hands are strong

and flexible beyond the evidence of age.

The dough is heavy with ingredients

and actively intent on change.

It will become what it is meant to be;

My hand is coaxing and enlivening,

but when the power of the dough

exceeds the willingness of my old hand

to press and fold,

I tuck the tiresome mass

into the patient bowl

to grow alone.

This is my time

to rest and read or walk the dogs.

I savor every moment,

forget the power churning in its womb,

amassing greater volume,

will to rise above…

Oh, let it rise, poor creature.

It cannot know the next stage,

has no idea of the punching down,

the cutting down to fit the narrow pans.

It can’t imagine the confinement

or the heat,

can only strive toward its completion.

The loaves emerge,

pulled from the blistering heat

by my protected hands.

All striving is complete,

the alchemy accomplished.

Golden, crusted, tender sweet,

the baked bread rests at last,

mercifully innocent

of future consumation.

Just a little taste…


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