Friday, January 25, 2013

The Daily Bread

My bread machine gave out on me a few days ago. I knew it was coming. For the past six months it has been acting flaky. Several times I've had to take the bottom off the machine to unstick the belt so the shaft would spin. Maybe the crusty, black gunk that has been seeping around the shaft had something to do with that. Anyway, the dough had only mixed for about ten minutes when the machine konked out and I detected a faint burning odor. I had to dump the dough out onto a marble slab and knead it myself. Though I'm sure my female ancestors could tell by feel exactly when the dough was ready to raise, I had no clue. I just kneaded it for a while before I plopped it into a loaf pan and stuck it in the microwave with a moist and toasty washcloth to raise for a while. 

While kneading the bread I thought about how spoiled we are by modern conveniences (bread machines, washing machines, dishwashers and electric ranges among other things). Even a toaster, an appliance used daily in my household, was new in the time of Downton Abbey. How different my daily life is from my ancestors'. While I can put my ingredients into a machine, press a button and forget about it until my bread is baked I'm sure many of the women in my tree baked bread by hand every single day. They did that while they kept a constant fire in the stove, cooked three meals a day, boiled their clothes in a big vat to wash them, mended, ironed, etc. etc. I still may not know by feel exactly how long to knead my bread dough, but considering all of the daily chores my appliances save me from, I'm willing to live with a slightly imperfect loaf of bread every now and then.

Your hundreds of loaves of bread were definitely appreciated (often with just a bit of butter).

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