I love to cook. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. You see, in my family, it is the men who you will find making dinner or preparing snacks. During family reunions, we gather around the grill and take turns tending to the meat, or you will see a line of us in the kitchen washing and cutting vegetables. We are at home around food. It is the domain which we survey atop a mountain of pride and love.
For all of the culinary lands I have crossed though, there is one corner that I spent years not daring to tread; the dreaded bakery. You see, cooking is art. With flares of spices, and bold statements made with the perfect sauce, each dish is a direct reflection of the emotions that the chef put into it. If you cook angry, your food will end up tasting harsh. Cooking without passion leaves your dish bland and tasteless. You must love your food, and bestow passion to your dish.
Why, then, was baking such a terrifying place for me to go? Well, where cooking is art and emotion, baking is science and calculation. I love science. In the kitchen, however, if I have to worry about not getting a measurement precisely correct or else the dish will be ruined, then I may not be able to leave the same level of warmth into it. When I cook a meal, I can feel my way through it. I can make my food POP with flavor simply by adding a few spices. If a sauce needs to be more rich and bold, I will add wine and reduce it a few times. I will add layer upon layer of emotion and flavor into a dish, each as bold as the brushstroke of a master artisan. With baking, if I use a tablespoon of salt instead of a teaspoon, then my bread loaf might not rise at all and the entire dish will be ruined. I think it’s safe to say that, for the longest time, baking scared the hell out of me.
Should I let myself be conquered by self doubt? NAY! Which is exactly why, last year, I decided that I was going to learn how to bake a loaf of bread. It became a “thing” for me. I figured that all people should know how to bake a loaf of bread before they die. I began my journey where every self-respecting geek should: The internet. What I found made me facepalm. I had thought that bakers were magicians; weaving complex spells with incomprehensible ingredients to concoct the perfect loaf of pure ambrosia. As it turns out, nearly every loaf of bread is merely a combination of 4 ingredients; Flour, water, yeast, sugar. The curtain had been pulled back. Suddenly, the task of baking my very own loaf of bread was much less daunting.
Well then, it was time for me to get to work. I found a simple bread recipe online and gathered my materials.I followed directions, mixed, folded, floured, and scored. When my loaf was in the oven, an enchanting smell began to emanate from the kitchen. The smell of baking bread is quite intoxicating. That was the first indication I was on the right track. Then, at the appointed time, I pulled my bread from the oven. What I saw warmed my heart.
I had done it. Now that I had the knowledge I would ALWAYS be able to do it. Since that day I have made many loaves of bread. I have constructed large round loaves to compliment a huge pot of my friend’s homemade gumbo, and I most recently rolled a French loaf as a side dish for grilled fish and vegetables. When the zombie apocalypse comes, while everyone else in my survival camp is forging weapons and securing the perimeter, I will be baking away in my kitchen. I will make sure that people are fed, and with as truly simple as bread is to make, they will have plenty of energy to fight off the undead horde.