The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Prospectus?

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dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Prospectus?

Well, since Floyd wants the discussion that's hijacked the "Pumpernickel" topic moved over here, here it is.

 

The question I have is one of understanding where the division is between "Advanced topics" and .... whatever you call that which is not "advanced."  Now I really don't want to pick nits or split hairs; I just want to understand.

 

I see three things that drew Floyd to raise the issue altogether: The first was the applicability of professional techniques, equipment and procedures to amateur baking. The second was the risk of discouraging beginning, amateur bakers by discussing professional approaches that are beyond their current competencies or "need to know." The third was Floyd's perception of Norm's style of communicating (pointing out errors, describing "the way a pro does it," and his typing ... uuuuuh .. . technique).

 

Now, as to the first issue, I think few of us  are about to buy a commercial bread baking oven for our kitchens. Yet, we have very amateur folks who have purchased commercial mixers, built wood burning ovens, etc. Many others have found where they can get ingredients we generally think of as only available to commercial bakers. I have regularly purchased First Clear flour. It hasn't been a problem, although I wish the shipping costs were less! I probably won't make a bagel board or proofing box. But that's because my carpentry skills are non-existent. I am challenged by hanging a picture.

 

The point is, the answer to the applicability question varies greatly from individual to individual, depending on his or her space, financial resources, and related competencies. For example, I have no difficulty following the food chemistry discussions (Which I would argue are certainly an "advanced topic) because I have studied chemistry. When you engineers start talking electronic measuring equipment, I go elsewhere. Now, I can decide for myself what's applicable to my own baking and what's not. If it's not, I move on, but I don't condemn some one else discussing what doesn't happen to be useful to me.

 

The second issue has to do with both the learning ambitions of the amateur baker and the teaching style of those offering information, advice or instruction. As far as ambition goes, personally, I don't want to bake bread that is merely edible. I want to bake the best bread I can possibly learn to bake. It's a thrill each time a bread is "the best I've ever baked," but I always am thinking about how I can make it better. In retrospect, I was making pretty poor bread when I first found TFL. I've learned a tremendous lot in a short time. I don't see the end to this learning curve; I'd be unhappy if I could. The bread is good, but, for me, it's the learning that hooks me. I have left other web sites supporting others of my enthusiasms when I felt they had nothing more to teach me. I wouldn't want that to happen here because you "dumbed it down" too far.

 

The teaching style issue may be a generational difference. Norm's 6' 5"  German baker boss represents a time and place that is not here and now. The 20-40 year olds of today expect and demand continuous, explicit praise for everything they do. This is not a criticism. It's a fact that numerous studies have confirmed, books have been written about and which has been widely published in the print and broadcast media.  I won't speak for Norm, but he is a decade or so my junior, as it happens. If I got one "Good job, David" every 6 months or so, I was happy. Smug, even. My generation knew when we were doing a good job because we had internalized the standards of the school, workplace and family. We didn't need some one else to tell us we were doing a good job. We hoped that, if we were not, some one would show us how to improve rather than merely punishing us. The good teachers/bosses were mentors; they taught by setting an example of excellence. They might have demanded loyalty and hard work. They didn't rightly give a hoot whether you liked them or not. Things have changed.

 

Lastly, Norm: Have you heard of a Program called "Dragon Naturally Speaking?"

 

Please excuse the way too long post. Maybe you need a sub-forum for dissertation-length posts.

 

David 

 

 

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Quite alright for the long post. I appreciate you taking this over to the new forum.

It has been a long weekend and I just got done cleaning up barf from my sick kid, so please excuse if I am less articulate or enthusiastic than usual, but let me try to respond.

First off, I had multiple people contact me about Norm's posting annoying them. The "Pro Baker for 25 year" signature, whether intentionally or not, tends to work as a trump card. Through the combination of his tone, his sig, the lack of respect for grammar and syntax, and the sheer abundance of his posts, people have gotten the vibe that his opinion overrules everyone else's, that he's the expert and he doesn't even have to bother with niceties like spelling when talking to us. As we talk more, I think we are seeing that is a bit of an unfair judgement, but nevertheless that is how people have been receiving it. After the 3rd email from a community member, one who used to be a regular poster but who recently stopped, I felt obligated to say something (which I tried to handle discretely offline, but Norm wasn't checking his email, so unfortunately I ended up hijacking the pumpernickel thread).

On to your comments: yes, people can pick and choose what advice to take, but what has been happening the past few weeks is that other people have stopped giving advice. Why? Because they know the "Pro baker for 25 years" is going to answer everything. If you've ever been at a party where everyone is having a good time and then someone loud and crass comes in and starts to dominate the conversation until soon people are saying "Well, I think I need to be going," that is what has been happening here. And, yes, I'll admit, that pisses me off. He is welcome to join the company here, I just ask that he respects the conversations we were having previously and gives a few other people opportunities to talk. He may have the right answer, but that doesn't mean he can't let someone else answer the question.

One significant thing is that there is no authority voice on the site. Questions get answered by the community in a relatively round-robin fashion. I love that. I don't want Norm or anyone else, including myself, to become the oracle others go to to seek advice.

All that said, clearly some folks, like yourself and qahtan, have enjoyed Norm's posts a great deal, and his knowledge fills a gap we had previous. There is no question the dude knows his stuff way better than many of us ever will. So I'm trying to figure out how to accommodate both the loud talkers and the more polite, timid folks. That was the goal in setting up a separate advanced topics forum.

On to the mission of the site. This site has always been about amateur baking, not professional baking. Amateur bakers make substitutions and make due with inferior equipment: that is a fact. And it is a personal peeve of mine: I can guarantee you that nothing will set me off as quickly as someone saying "This recipe *must* be made with organic Andean winter wheat hand ground on stone mill." That may be fine for a professional, but on any amateur site that I maintain "you musts" and "no substitutions" are going to be verboten. When combined with the emails I received, that set me off this morning.

On to point two: I would prefer that we find a way to keep this site inviting to both new and experienced bakers. But if I have to make a choice between one or the other (and I've said this before), I'll choose the new. I started this site to be baking kindergarten, not baking grad school. In part because that is all I'm qualified to teach, in part because I think that it is group that is underserved. Newsgroups like rec.food.sourdough eventually get dominated by the hardcore bakers, mostly men, who shout a lot. I created this site explicitly with the goal of preventing that from happening. If that means people have to graduate out of here and eventually move on to another site, so be it (though, as I said above, I'm trying to work to accommodate both. And we have some great bakers here who've found ways to coexist with and even be helpful to brand new bakers, so I believe it is possible).

Your third point: yeah, yeah, kids are soft these days. I went to a hard ass college where I didn't get grade and never got positive feedback and I have a father who is a professional critic, so I understand that tough love isn't necessarily a bad thing. Nevertheless, I've also seen the ability of unqualified trust and support to make a difference in people's lives, particularly when they are discovering a new passion. I want new bakers visiting the site to be comfortable asking dumb questions and be proud of their loaves even if the loaves are sickly and dense and pale; with encouragement, they'll get better. If you and Norm want to go open BakersBootCamp.com and kick the snot out of sniveling softies who ask to substitute inferior ingredients, you are welcome to. There is a good chance that you'll create better bakers that way, but that isn't what I want us to do here.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Floyd. 

Thanks for your response to my reflections. I appreciate your sharing the background of the controversy from your perspective.  

I hope your child recovers quickly. Having a sick little one is always hard for the parents, as well as the child. 

I see your point about Norm not playing by the rules, answering too many questions. I appreciate the value of wide participation of the membership and of many people playing the "learner" role at times and the "teacher" role at other times. Excellent point, indeed. However, this rule was implicit but not, to my knowledge, stated anywhere. So, it wss easy to violate by some one who might just be over-eager to be helpful. 

Remember, this is a guy who had to leave his profession due to an illness or injury after 25 years of struggling from the bottom up to head baker. He's got another life, but there has to be a lot of remorse for what he's missing as the guy who now can teach his skills and professional know-how to the up and coming younger bakers in his shop. 

I am vulnerable to the accusation of being an "armchair general" here, but maybe you could have explained your desires for the community privately and arrived at an understanding of how Norm could share his knowledge without disrupting the good fellowship of amateur bakers helping eachother. Hindsight's 20-20, eh? 

I understand your reflex aversion to words like "must." Me? I react differently - with skepticism but not anger. I take them as a challenge, but not an insult. But, for some they are "fighting words," for sure. 

My comment about "the younger generation" was not a value judgement, just an  observation about our changing culture. What motivates and what rewards people does change over time. It's a process. But it does impact the ability of people to communicate effectively across generations. This is nothing new. The classical Greeks lamented the degradation of values in the "younger generation" no less than any modern American. 

But, maybe you already know this. Let's see ... Portland, OR. "Hard ass college" that doesn't give grades. When were you at Reed? 

David

Floydm's picture
Floydm

However, this rule was implicit but not, to my knowledge, stated anywhere. So, it was easy to violate by some one who might just be over-eager to be helpful.

You are quite right. It has been implied, not explicitly stated.

Remember, this is a guy who had to leave his profession due to an illness or injury after 25 years of struggling from the bottom up to head baker.

I hear that and certainly don't accuse him of being a jerk, just perhaps overly enthusiastic. And I'm not telling him to go away, I'm just hoping we can figure out a way to channel that enthusiasm in a way that other folks don't find intimidating.

I am vulnerable to the accusation of being an "armchair general" here, but maybe you could have explained your desires for the community privately and arrived at an understanding of how Norm could share his knowledge without disrupting the good fellowship of amateur bakers helping eachother.

Quite right. I held my tongue until community members emailed me. I then emailed him and did not get a reply, so I commented on the pumpernickel thread. Perhaps that wasn't the right thing to do or perhaps I should have said something privately to him sooner, but, as you said, hindsight is 20-20.

When were you at Reed?

92-97, with a year off in the middle. I majored in Religion, with a thesis titled "Sympathy for the Devil: Apokatastasis in the Eschatology of Gregory of Nyssa and Origen of Alexandria" or something like that. Good fun.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Dave, Floyd,

I'll take a risk and toss out a few thoughts.

Floyd's dealing with early parenthood and a job, yet somehow manages to keep this site running and healthy. I ran a soccer league for my town and a neighboring town a while ago and developed and ran a whole web site for it. The effort to keep my soccer site and community up and running was just exhausting, and my kids were bigger and I was retired at the time. So, I'd like to say thanks, yet again, Floyd. Maybe this is an example of 90s praise, but I am grateful to Floyd for his efforts.

I had the impression when reading Norm's posts that he was trying to help and share in a sincere way, even if he sometimes was a little overwhelming in his enthusiasm. I could see where the volume of posts was becoming annoying, though. In his defense on the particulars, I also think that it's very hard to figure out a substitute for first clear flour without doing your own milling and sifting, so in spite of the delivery, his comment made sense to me. You really can't make certain breads come out the same without it. Sometimes it is just true and factual that the ingredient is "hard to substitute - maybe you just have to go order some from KA or beg a commercial bakery for some or whatever, if you really want the bagel to be like what you remember when you went to that NYC deli".

Although it's been a while, we've had discussions about the "amateur" nature of the community in the past a number of times even in my relatively short period of participation. Floyd does sometimes come on strong, but I've realized over time that it's tough to make his points without doing that once in a while. In response to a previous similar controversy about long, detailed threads devoted to esoteric topics or personal discussions or whatever, Floyd changed the site so that blogs don't post on the main stream of threads on the front page. I found this to be an excellent feature, since it allowed me to post some of my more technically oriented or esoteric baking discussions in my blog where people can visit if they want, without overwhelming the front page with discussions far from the mainstream.

Floyd has pushed hard to keep this community from falling into the snooty, pissy, pedantic atmosphere you find all too often elsewhere. I don't always agree with him on where he draws the line, but I've come to respect his leadership, his intentions, his end product - a good site and pleasant, diverse community of baking enthusiasts.  So, I've continued to be happy to participate here rather than elsewhere.

I agree it's tough to know when the advanced topics forum should be used. My tendency is to put anything technical in my blog entires, but I could see that an advanced topics forum might allow for the development of a "sub-community" of bakers who enjoy more technical discussions. To me what makes sense is to keep the front page postings more oriented toward everyday kitchen questions and more oriented toward beginning bakers.

As an example, what about the thread about malt syrup? To some extent it's on the esoteric side, yet it certainly comes up all the time for beginning bakers. All you have to do is read one of the classic bread books like BBA, and you'll encounter some discussion of diastatic malt powder before long. It is very confusing because of the many non-diastatic malt flavoring products out there in addition to the diastatic products. Often, the labelling is confusing. So, is it advance or not? I'd say that the discussion in the thread to date did not warrant a "switch" to the advanced forum. However, if a number of us started getting into it in more detail, maybe it would make sense for one of us to host a blog entry on the subject or for someone to start an advanced discussion on diastatic malt.

Bill

 

holds99's picture
holds99

Floyd,

I think the Advancd Forum can serve to seperate the levels of interest and detail re: formulas, chemistry, etc. and is an excellent idea.  I understand the problem and the Advanced Forum should solve most of that problem.  I think we all have to remember that we ALL started at the entry level and try to remember how intimidating the baking process is for someone who is just getting their feet wet and sometimes spend months watching and agonizing before signing up on TFL  We sure don't want to lose any of the new folks.  In fact we need to do everything we can to encourage and sustain them.  After all, they're the future of the site.  In defense of Norm, I honestly believe his heart is in the right place.  He has been generous in sharing his time and experience with me and also with David and others re: problems we were having with various aspects of this craft.  Like I said dividing the class, as it were, may solve the problem.  In all honesty I find some of the other patter that goes on is sometimes off the mark, so to speak, because it doesn't have to do with baking,  But, heck, that's that's just the way it goes; people sharing. 

Floyd, As I have told you before, I think you have created something VERY SPECIAL with TFL and I sure hope we can, with a little tolerance, understanding and good judgment keep this great site pointed in the direction you want it go.  After all, you're the captain of the ship and we're passengers on the voyage and I, for one, sure don't want to get thrown overboard.

Howard

dstroy's picture
dstroy

As a total outsider who just reads without much direct input in the discussions, here's what I've noticed: a while back when I'd check in, what I saw was a lively party with a whole diverse group of people talking to each other. More recently, when I'd pop in, what I was seeing in the recent comments was that half the room of people were noticeably absent, so what we had was a much smaller group with mostly one guy talking a lot and the rest of the folks were sort of circling him to ask him questions.
Where did everybody else go?

So how do you, as host, ensure that what doesn't happen is that when the new center of attention takes a break, the site doesn't completely die because that was really the last person in the room talking? No one wants to stop the discussion that's going on - the question is how to make it so that that discussion doesn't overwhelm everything else.... When you start seeing 90 percent of the recent comments in the main forum being made by the same person, and the remainder being made specifically TO that person, it may be time to step to another room to carry on the discussion.

Maybe the New Yorker style of communication has been rubbing some folks wrong and why we had so much attrition from the room and the direct complaints that couldn't really put a finger on exactly what was "annoying"... From what I can tell, though, it's already been way toned down (and the sig file was really bugging me after seeing it so often and I'm all fine with everything now that it's gone, so who knows...maybe it was something trivial...)
Anyway, hopefully that's all smoothed out now and hopefully there weren't any hurt feelings in the dramalama that came up- I hope the folks that dropped out will come back now, and I hope that the discussions can continue too, without ruffling as many feathers!

And when discussions move from a general question to more nitty gritty of a technique, open a side discussion for that in the advanced forum, so folks looking at a basic recipe for something dont get hung up on those discussions when the basics should be enough to get them started. (I know I've recently looked at stuff thinking I might try it, and then found myself turned off because I started reading and it got all over-my-head and I gave up and decided to "leave the baking to Floyd" again...)


As for the substitutions thing - yeah, I should tell you guys Floyd's a little sensitive on that issue and he may jump at linguistics when someone is saying "no". ;)

I made the mistake of getting him a cookbook as a birthday gift several years ago without reading it first. The food looked good, but it was peppered with language like "you absolutely MUST have Crème fraîche for this recipe or you cannot do it", (which meant that like 90% of the stuff in there we "simply could not" do) and "using ANYTHING less than corn-fed chickens that were raised in Swiss alps and bathed in rosewater each morning at dawn's first light would be a sin!"
Yeah, ok, I'm exaggerating, but you get the idea - it was written so...enthusiastically... against substitutions that well, it felt like you weren't allowed to attempt to cook these dishes without first getting a passport and moving someplace where the ingredients would be available - in which case, why sell it here at all?
He made me take the book back :)
So yeah, my experience with him on this is: if you're going to say "no", qualify it with a "for the most authentic recipe, no, but you can substitute xyz and it wont be as flavorful..." or whatever it is that makes xyz so incredibly important, and then he isn't as likely to jump on ya ;) I don't think he's gonna throw anyone overboard for it, but it's good to know it's one of his hot-buttons :)

holds99's picture
holds99

Dstroy,

Thanks for your thoughts and humor.  In case you didn't know, I've been searching far and wide for the perfect: "corn-fed chickens that were raised in Swiss alps and bathed in rosewater each morning at dawn's first light".  If one can believe the Imperial Potentate of Haute Cuisine, Paul Bocuse, the French raise those perfumed birds near the oceanside harvest site of Fleur de Sel in Normandy   AND let me assure you that Le Grand Bocuse will accept NO SUBSTITUTION when he prepares his famous Poulet L'eau de Rose :)


 

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Much appreciation for both of your feedback, Bill and Howard (David's too). I'm the first to admit I don't always draw the lines clearly or intervene at the proper time (the pumpernickel thread was not the proper place to). But I try my best, not only to speak for myself but for other people on the site who are too polite/kind/timid to be confrontational.

I was thinking about Mark's metaphor of this site being like a kitchen, but what I always come back to in many ways it is like a local cafe. What I serve is pretty mediocre fare, what really makes the place is the people who stop by and the stories and plates that they bring. Honestly, I'm happiest when I can stay in the back and just wash dishes, let the regulars talk amongst themselves, and I can just listen in: you guys know your stuff much better than I do, and many of you are better writers and, at least to me, considerably more interesting than I am.

Like the proprietor of a cafe, I can tell when something is wrong: when someone comes in and starts interrupting other people's conversations, when someone sits at the middle table and talks much too loud, when someone sits down and starts burping and farting and swearing and driving the polite company away. When that happens, I feel obligated to say something to whomever is driving people away. In this case, while some people have found Norm's posts to be exactly what they are looking for, others have told me they are not enjoying the change in tone. Others haven't said anything but have recent grown silent. So I thought it was time to say something.

One complaint I've gotten when one of these interventions happens is that I haven't clearly posted the rules. While that is true, neither do any of the cafes I go to, aside from "no shoes, no shirt, no service" and "we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone". People just have to learn what acceptable in public and what is not. And it is true that sometimes the rules do change or vary based on who is in the place or vary from place-to-place: Amongst "the guys" you might tell dirty jokes, but you probably don't if the cafe is full of grandmothers and school children. So you have to pay attention. That is just consideration, and I ask for something similar from people who would like to participate in the discussion groups here.

So adding an advanced topics forum isn't about clearly dividing the content into simple vs. advanced. It is about trying to make the place more inviting to a broad range of people, like adding an extra room to the cafe. If your going to have a highly technical discussion and can't take the time to put on a clean shirt or brush your teeth (use the shift key or run a spell checker), then the proprietor still welcomes you here but would suggest that the table right in front of the register probably isn't the place to sit. I need that stream of new customers coming in if I want to keep the joint running.

Does that make sense?

holds99's picture
holds99

Floyd,

Makes very good sense.  Thanks.

Howard

helend's picture
helend

Hi

I hope you don't mind me joining in but I wanted to add a comment (or two) having read the recent posts on the above subject.

I joined the site a while ago and have enjoyed contributing occasionally. I admit to being a bit lazy with the camera and, because I communicate and teach a lot during my working day with the computer, don't always feel like typing in my down time. BUT I have ALWAYS made an effort to make posts informative and accurate so that if anyone is interested in what I'm doing I won't let them down by garbled, misleading or lazy punctuation and grammar. I don't intend this as a dig at anyone whose efforts are less than grammatically perfect and goodness knows, I make mistakes but rather as an indication that I think it is only fair on others and for the standards of the site as an information sharing exchange if I try hard ie proof read and click on the Preview button before unleashing my efforts on the general public. On those occasions when others have been kind enough to respond or ask questions I have been humbled by inquiries and always been thrilled and happy to respond, hopefully without sounding pompous or dictatorial - even in any small sphere where I might consider myself "expert". My feeling is that this is how many fellow contributors feel.

I was perfectly aware when I joined that there was, for example a devoted band of sourdough enthusiasts - something I have yet to get to grips with. More latterly the great "No knead" debate appeared to take precedence and sometimes, quite naturally Floydm's comments surface. This has never stopped me enjoying the site, although I might visit for a shorter period. Special interests do tend to bubble up and form the majority content for a while - but the site is constructed so a) this is easy to see - I can dip in and out again as quickly as I want and b) I gain the opportunity to learn a little; hear new opinions; listen to new people and their enthusiasms. After all, Floydm has made it easy for me to pick out some of my own special interests eg spelt and of course, the perfect wholemeal loaf - with or without honey, oats and other good things.

Over the time I have been here, Floydm has made many changes - some I have liked, others less so and some bamboozling to the technically challenged but I have always appreciated his efforts to keep the site fresh, easy to use, responsive and sensitive to his and others' needs. I also appreciate his efforts to police any issue that might cause distress and feel strongly that, however implicit the "rules" it is the pervading atmosphere and ethos of the site that makes it a forum in which anyone can contribute without the fear of being put down or ridiculed. Thanks Floydm for explaining how and why some things have been changed and the efforts you make to promote this feel.

Where issues regarding "expert" opinions, overbearing or exuberant and wayward posts have arisen I am happy to let Floydm deal with this as he sees fit BUT let's face it anyone could have politely and in the spirit of the site responded to SOME of the posts, offering anything from an alternative point of view to a new topic for debate.

I welcome the "advanced topics" area - I shall approach it with due resolve - and a stiff gin and tonic - when I feel up to being educated. The rest of the time I shall continue to enjoy the pictures, ideas, blogs, In the News and general discussion as I always have done - witha mental "thank you" to Floydm and a smile as I read, look and learn from all the contributions.

I am very fond of you all, expert and amateur alike and I apologise unreservedly for any typing errors I have made.

Helend

 

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Helen.

I do the same thing: tune out the threads that aren't particularly interesting to me (heh, many of the ones that interest you: spelt, whole grain, milling, arcane differences between multiple lines of starter, etc.). I don't think that is problematic as long as there is still breathing room for other threads to get started. But when I perceive those topics really starting to stifle other conversations, I do intervene and ask people to take it to some place more private (blog, email, the advanced topic area).

I'm the first to admit that my perception of such issues is subjective, that I have weird hang ups (no substitutions), and that my judgement is prone to error. Typically I get a hunch something is amiss on the site, but figure it is just me who is getting annoyed until I get one or two community members private email that reenforce my hunch. Then I'll speak out. Sometimes that means I let problems fester too long and jump up at strange times, but I prefer that than always breathing down people's necks. We're all grown ups here and don't need a nanny, just occasionally someone needs a little reminder to be considerate.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this topic. It has certainly clarified the issues for me. 

I have a much better understanding of what Floyd is trying to accomplish by creating an Advanced forum. I hope it makes for a more comfortable and rewarding place for the broad range of expertise represented among TFL participants.

David

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I remember my dear departed Mother saying "That's Preaching to the Choir" when I was telling her something she agreed with. I'm late in this discussion and much of the above is boring enough I won't repeat it, which in and of itself will make it less so.

Any snickering yet? Let's see how it works.

Eric

GrapevineTXoldaccount's picture
GrapevineTXolda...

Floydm, I would LOVE to see an advanced forum...and hopefully I would be worthy of contributing from time to time, but I'm probably dreaming.  However, it would allow for those of us that are attempting a first time, hands-on experience, the opportunity to delve further into it without boring, or putting off others.  An example, if I could:

When I began my foray into sourdough I did extensive online searches for all things, naturally leavened.  I found many a site, but NONE that was as warm, friendly and inviting as TFL.  Seriously!  I remember coming back, time and time again, just as a little 'fly upon the wall' hoping that I could one day venture into the cozy comfort of Floyd's Bread Lounge and begin making contact.  The nature of the website was new.   I've been a member of a travel board for three years, whose interface offers a recipe forum (more as a sidebar in order to move items non-travel related off the main concourse) to yours, an outright buffet with the instructions on prepping, serving, and a hint at, Smell-O-Vision.  (Heaven, I tell 'ya, heaven!)  I knew that I'd found home. 

Each of us is a missionary.  I'm just beginning my journey into Yeast 101 and have hopes of moving forward to, Beyond Yeast, the Final Frontier.  It's going to take being a member of TFL to get me there. 

I'll be sitting in THE LOUNGE.  Feel free to point out any and all items.  I ain't gettin younger and I ain't leavin.

Oh, and by the way, did I say, THANK YOU? 

 THANKS!!!!!!

leemid's picture
leemid

I've been around here for about a year now, got sucked in when I tried to point out that artisan is incorrect, that the correct word is artisanal when applied to bread. I was politely informed that the locals were happy with the degradation of the language (my words), thank you very much. When I pushed it a bit, I was familied into submission by 'older brothers' who hooked their arms around my neck and rubbed their knuckles into my hair. The wit and humor won me over and I have only used the word 'artisanal' once or twice since, even in outside conversation. I have laughed out loud more times in the last year while participating here than for any other reason. This place is bread-home.

Why is this so? I believe Floyd is the main reason. He would probably be the first to offer that he has many warts and foibles but I don't see them. What I see is a man of deep character who rules as the great rulers always have, from behind with a gentle hand while laboring for his own subsistence and not living off the labors of his subjects. I have had the good fortune of meeting him personally, once, which was enough, and saw the same gentleness and commitment to helping others along, protecting and nurturing in little, loving ways. Truly great organizations are always run by truly great leaders. And when he reads this he will be at least slightly uncomfortable by the praise. That's okay with me too.

I am pleased that Floyd has succeeded in finding sponsorship to help defray the costs. Someday he might be offered a fat wad of cash for his little baby here, and if he accepts and retires to Aruba with a kitchen full of all the right gadgets, a brick oven out on the veranda and a high speed uplink on the sand to keep in touch, this site will tank. (I will now accept your thanks for preventing such a catastrophy...) I love what he has and is doing here.

I had been thinking, what with all the newbies coming on and asking all of the newbie questions we have all asked, should there be a 'go here first section' for newbies to shepherd them along. This 'advanced' side might just cover that issue by letting some of us sometimes go out on the patio and mill around. I am no expert, but I have gained a great deal of confidence in my baking that allows me to more easily accomplish good results with each new effort. I can consistently produce the breads I like best, and I don't have a lot of interest in baking the 'next great bread' to see how it works. I do want to try ciabatta again and Italian breads, and when I do I will be the newbie looking for help.

Sometimes I am disappointed that my favorite friends here are away for awhile, but sometimes so am I. That's just life. This is still one of the required places to go every time I turn on my computer. This is still where I want to go when I have succeeded at baking, armed with pictures, so I can brag. Because holding your own in this crowd is satisfying. Achieving a minor success in this crowd is satisfying. Just sitting and reading is satisfying. And praise must go first to Floyd because this is an extention of himself, or at least that's how I see it.

This IS my story, and I'm sticking to it. 

Lee 

helend's picture
helend

Hear, hear Lee!

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I think you expressed very well how I feel here Lee. I've been missing you lately BTW, and Moutaindog too.

Eric

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

Ditto to all the compliments to Floyd and what he has established and maintained. I think I've been hanging around 2 years, give or take. I'm still here regularly because I love the community, comraderie and diversity. The company I work for educates, promotes and desires their employees to embrace the acceptance of culture, age, ethnic and medical diversity. It never would have crossed my mind to think someone was intentionally lacksadaisical (sp?) about how they typed their post out of disrespect. My first thought was a handicap of some kind. So..not to drag this on, we all see things through different glasses, some rose colored..Thanks to everyone for all they share.

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

can someone please give a reference (url) to the original post (the discussion that's hijacked the "Pumpernickel" topic) so that I can understand the origin of this thread?

I've been away from TFL for awhile and must have missed it (or the topic header didn't entice me)

thanks 

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

Found the thread that sparked this thread. In fact, once I realized that the poster who sparked this was called nibcomputer (not "pro baker...") I checked out a number of threads to which he had replied.

My 2 cents: I wasn't at all put off by nibcomputer's replies. In fact, I rather enjoyed them (spelling mistakes not withstanding) I particularly liked his post on milling first clear flour but then, I'm interested in flour types and milling (home and professional).

There is always going to be a tension between the needs of beginning bakers and the needs of experienced bakers. I notice an increase in new members over the past few months but it also seems that, as a consequence, there are more of the newbie questions that constantly appear on any bread forum. This is good for the site as a whole but makes it (I confess) less interesting to me. On the other hand, I do seek to be a good member of the TFL community. I have gained a lot from this site and feel a certain obligation to pay back by posting to a thread if I feel I have something unique to contribute.

BTW, floyd, whatever came of your idea of creating a "book" that would take the best of the best posts and present them? I think you introduced the idea in Nov 07. Are you going forward with it or are you too busy?

holds99's picture
holds99

This will be my LAST post on this subject but this is how I view it, for good or ill.  Without sounding arrogant or preachy I think what we have here on TFL is a symbiotic relationship between the various baking skill levels; novice, good, better and best.  The entry level or novice bakers need the more experienced bakers as mentors, so to speak.  In turn, the experience bakers are reinforced and gain knowledge from other experienced bakers, not from novices.  However, in my mind, the experienced bakers owe it to the less proficient bakers to help them with advice and support when appropriate.  Otherwise, the site will cease to grow, become intimidating to entry level folks, and cease to be a place where a new baker can come learn and grow into the "good, better, best" category.  That's what I mean by symbiotic.  We (all of us) need each other to varying degrees and need to find a balance.  I like Floyd's example of the guy sitting next to him with the obnoxious mustache.  Hey, just look the other way.  You're absolutely right, there's going to be tension between the various skill levels, it's human nature.  Some folks have been TFL'ers for a long time.  I envy them, in the sense that I wish I had found this site sooner, make that much sooner.  But I think we all have to guard against letting ourselve develop preconceived ideas about what the site is supposed to be and whose needs it's supposed to serve.  In my mind it's supposed to serve all our needs, to varying degrees.  I personally believe that the name of the game is peaceful co-existence.  It doesn't mean you have to agree with everything that's said, just be tolerant and civil.  I, for one, have learned a great deal from this site and although I have only been a member for a short time I look forward each day to logging on and sometimes contributing to various discussions.  As I have said in other posts, Nbicomputers (Norm) provides valuable input and guidance for certain levels of baking and somehow, some way, if possible, from a pragmatic point of view, we should hold onto him...he needs us, we need him.

Howard

Floydm's picture
Floydm

BTW, floyd, whatever came of your idea of creating a "book" that would take the best of the best posts and present them? I think you introduced the idea in Nov 07. Are you going forward with it or are you too busy?

Yes and yes. As I feared, things got really busy and it lost momentum. But things are moving forward with it, albeit very slowly right now. I am hoping it can pick up steam and we can officially kick the project off before Easter, but I'm not promising that it won't slip a little longer. Thank you for your patience.

leemid's picture
leemid

And the other thing never said or heard in today's societies... this site isn't ours. This site belongs to Floyd and we are guests. It behooves guests to behave like guests, not strip down to our holey undies, grab a beer, expel noxious gasses, put our feet up on the counter with no regard for sanitation and respect. Behave like a beast in your own home if you wish, with the door closed and the curtains drawn. But in the home of a gracious host, behave better than you do anywhere else on the planet.

When it comes to the host's other guests? They are his guests, not ours, so treat them better than you would if you met them anywhere else because they are his guests, out of repect for him if you can muster no respect for the guest himself. Again, behave as a beast in your own home... but not here.

For the most part I am finally a mature individual and am able to do these things, at least for a limited time and in another's home. In my home, I rule. I was not offended by Norm or his presentation. Nor did I change my opinions based on his experiences; another function of advancing age. I have learned what I can do, how and why, so I am not easily swayed by another's advice. If I had no idea on the subject I would still take into consideration his advice and experience with all of the other I read and hear, then make calculated decisions, write down the process and note the results. Over time I would come to understand what I did right and wrong, just I have have done. So I have no opinion other than that which I have already expressed, which is that Floyd has proven his capability of maintaining an excellent home for us to visit. If I were asked for advice on how to improve this site I might develop one if I thought there was anything wrong with it now. But I don't so think. Instead I consider myself honored to be a guest. 

Just a little more of my sticky story,

Lee 

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Though I haven't commented back to on all of the comments on this thread, I have been reading them and do appreciate hearing everyone's thoughts. It is interesting to hear what TFL represents to different folks and people's interpretations of what my motivations are, in part because I'm not always sure myself.

I have one final reflection on all this before hopefully putting this thread to bed and getting back to talking about bread.

Though not always consciously, I've gone out of my way to blur the distinction between the students and the teachers here. This is easy for me to do personally because though I put up the original "lessons", I am much more a student than a teacher here. But you'll notice there is no "Ask an expert" section, no group of people with special icons or funny hats or fancy titles distinguishing them as different from the rest of the community. We are all on a first name basis here.

My impression is that community members get this and really enjoy this aspect of the site. I see even the most advanced bakers asking questions and learning from each other, and even some of the least experienced helping each other out when they can. Personally, I love that.

I think a large part of what frustrated me when Norm showed up is he was all teach and little learn. Now that we know more about his personal situation we can see he has good reasons for being this way.

My hope is that we've come to an understanding that will allow him to share his stories, his knowledge, and his passion for baking with us without upsetting that blurring of student and teacher on the rest of the site. Losing either the opportunity to learn from a true master baker or that community spirit here would be a great shame.

Ok, no more navel-gazing, back to baking!

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, everybody.

The distinction between the "teacher" and the "student" roles has long been of interest to me. Anyone wanting to really understanding how destructive dichotomizing these roles is should read anything by Paulo Freire, a Brazilian adult educator. Start with "Pedagogy of the Oppressed."

My own belief is that the community (read "school," "family," "business.") is richer when all of the members are moving back and forth between the student and teacher roles fluidly, transparently and continuously.

Floyd's  being bugged by Norm's never taking the student role suggests we share the value of this model of education, even if we conceptualize it somewhat differently.

Now, back to bread.

David

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

The following is offered as a constructive suggestion for moving forward:.

It has been pointed out that Floyd is sensitive to among other things

  1. Spelling mistakes
  2. People suggesting there is only one way to do things
  3. Monopolizing of the airwaves
  4. Plus other items....

What is not widely recognized is that Floyd, whom we love and respect, is not alone in being Sensitive.  The majority of the people on this TFL forum are Sensitive.  Please note: being sensitive is not good or bad. It is how you deal with it that can make it a gift or a problem.

One example: about a year ago, I suggested that Americans (versus let's say most Germans) liked an undue amount of sugar in their baking-at least as reflected by what is available in the surrounding bakeries in the north east- and the majority of this Community at the time went ballistic suggesting that I was un-American and bringing up the issue of patriotism.  I could not believe it and just let the matter drop.

Peter Reinhart, a former member of a religious community, feels the need to use ph litmus papers to test his dough.  Now I know he is a swell guy but that has to be Compulsive  by anyone's standards.  For the record, Peter is a Sensitive.

Since I am a Sensitive and have been to art school and lived in a religious community I am able to recognize a group of Sensitives when I see one.  The problem comes when people get into denial or choose to ignore it.  So, while many people here may not be Sensitives, there are enough who are who set the tone that the Sensitive sensibilty does appear to predominate. 

So in summary, two things:

  1. The predominant sensibility of people here is that of a Sensitive and as such is quite thin skinned and easily offended.
  2. It would be constructive longterm if everyone kept this in mind when interacting and composing their comments.

For those who wish it. there are many Sensitive Forums out there on which to share, ie http://www.highlysensitivepeople.com/.  You may wish to explore those.

However, what I believe Floyd is trying to do here is not just build a community for "artisan bakers and enthusiasts" but build one which has a special ambiance.  He is trying to have it be a place where there is not just sharing and learning but where it is done with a gentleness and sensitivity for interaction that is not frequently found. This is not an easy task, as this thread attests. 

With hopes that this helps for the future............

CountryBoy

PS: I ran this through the Spell Checker and it disagrees with some of my grammatical constructions. I continue in my belief that the MS Word checker is not always sensitive to what I am trying to express...........  8-)

      

      

FMM's picture
FMM

What a fantastic thread.  I've thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  It is precisely why I think conflict is generally a good thing- it clears the air.  Most of us think we are reasonable and moderate human beings yet what pushes one person's buttons is like water off a duck's back to another.  I didn't mind the 'pro baker' thing but I can see how it would be irritating and, I don't know about you guys but once I'm irritated, it's hard to be calm about the source.  I think it just means we're all sensitive- merely about different things.

For my part what I love about this site is its accessibility.  It is unusual in that it's attractive to a truly global community.  To that end, I really welcome Floyd's approach not to deal in ingredients we absolutely must use.  I don't live in the States and therefore do not have access to the huge variety of flours and equipment which are often mentioned here.  So when a recipe calls for, for instance clear flour or white rye, I can't buy those ingredients and have to work around the problem.  This site has never let me down in finding someone to help find a solution to either a method or ingredients problem (I never did get around to thanking Lee for helping me with retarding.  It has totally changed my approach to sourdoughs).

I suspect a lot of us utilise this site by quickly glancing over most of the headings and delving into those topics which particularly suit our needs at any one time.  I welcome the idea of an advanced forum.  I don't view it as applying only to advanced bakers, rather it serves to provide greater detail about a specific topic.  In the short time I've been looking at TFL, it's grown bigger and bigger and the division of topics strikes me as an appropriate way of dealing with that growth.  I love the site and all the enthusiasm and innovation I find here.  Thanks to all.

Fiona

leemid's picture
leemid

I had no idea. Thanks for the mention, it means a lot.

Lee