Greetings from Wintery New York State
I’ve been reading TFL for about a month now, and have participated a little bit, but haven’t yet introduced myself. Here goes!
I’m a 71 year-old woman who has partially lost the use of fine motor skills in both hands and feet, so the two loves of my recent life -- needlework and gardening -- are pretty much out. I’ve baked all my life, so I decided that upgrading my skills and learning all I can in this area will keep me off the streets.
So much of my thinking, recently, has been about a lady named Pauline Washburn, who lived a couple of miles down the road from us when I was growing up. This was in Western New York State in the Finger Lakes with Rochester a couple of hours away, so when my parents went in to the city I went home from school with the Washburn kids, and stayed the night. I remember Mrs. Washburn’s baking -- 6 loaves at a time. Probably all white bread (I’m not sure of that) but definitely full of rich fresh milk and eggs, and each loaf almost the perfect twin to the next. I suspect she baked 3 or 4 times a week or so; she had a huge family and I know some people also bought bread from her -- my mother did. The thing that boggles me is that she did this on a wood kitchen range. She had lots of practice, but regulating the heat in one of those is a real art. And of course, she mixed and kneaded by hand, and proofed in a drafty kitchen. I remember she had a special cupboard near the stove for proofing.
I’m all for the technical side of baking; I’ve recently been using baker’s percentages and find they are very helpful. I love reading about baking, and am collecting books. I’m a new recipe hound. But at the same time, I look back at Mrs. Washburn, with the wet laundry hanging in the kitchen in the winter, orphan lambs underfoot or in boxes behind the stove because that’s what you have to do to save them, the egg gathering, vegetable gardening, canning and preserving, churning, washing and ironing, cleaning, cooking, mending, and all the rest on top of the baking, and I shake my head. I get myself into a frazzle if my oven temperature isn’t just right and worry about how to calculate the percentages in the whole loaf when using a sourdough starter. Then I think of Pauline, and say to myself, “Mary, just bake the darned stuff! If it turns out, fine. If not, it’ll still be edible.”
Seriously, I do think this is a great site and a terrific community. I want to thank, first, Floyd for creating it, and everyone else for all the great ideas they bring and the willingness to make someone else’s problems their own. I probably won’t contribute much often, because that’s not my style, but I am reading every word.
Best to everyone,
Mary in Hammondsport
(Back in the Finger Lakes after many miles and many years)