The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bread making as a way to stay grounded, human, connected to the Earth, and to use those senses...

Theresse's picture

Bread making as a way to stay grounded, human, connected to the Earth, and to use those senses...

This was a comment I was making to another forum member but then it turned into such a rant, I realized it needed its own place here.  Not sure if anyone will care or feels the same way but here it is, in case anyone else can relate.

It's funny - and maybe you can relate to this (?) - but I'm such a sensory person in general (extra sharp olfactory and aural senses, as well as touch, e.g. I'm all about down comforters and bubble baths, good cottons, etc).  I think being so sensory lends itself - though it's early on for me so I don't know for sure - to making bread. The senses are so involved or the ability to make good bread is so much easier when you know what a good sourdough starter smells like and can feel the consistency you need and know the feel of the nice slack high-hydration dough and can see the sheen develop, etc. I guess that can be said about any creative process actually. I mean for all I know, that's part of car-painting, you know?! Yet there seems to be more with bread making than car-painting because of how it's alive and growing. My guess is that many of us appreciate the process of bread making in part due to how removed we've all become from making things ourselves these days as well as directly interacting with the materials since most everything's already processed for us (not to mention the growing disconnect between people, e.g. due to computers and cell phones, etc)!  It's obviously not an original thought I'm sharing here, but in some ways we're epidemically losing our humanity (or a new definition of what it is to be human seems to be developing - yikes). It's not just a concern about how we connect to others but how we connect to things in the world and our place in it - how we connect to what we eat, in this case. I know there's a lot out there about this but it's really hitting me, how true it is, since playing around with bread dough, haha.

As a parent, I'm reminded of how important - extremely important - it is to teach kids the value of using those senses and having hobbies.  I really feel we're losing our kids more than ever to screens: TVs (as well as commercialism of course), video games and handheld devices. And then it seems so many parents' ideas of preventing too much screen time is simply to involve them in sports (granted I'm speaking from the perspective of a mom of all boys). But there's so much more out there they're not being introduced to enough, such as playing instruments, cooking/baking, digging in the earth, or even a sport involving rowing or paddling (just an example) because it puts them in nature and helps them "touch" the earth.  I'm often down on myself as a parent for all the things I do wrong but I gotta say, I'm proud of myself in this moment for helping them become intellectually active rather than passive. They resist it and beg for their screen time, but they can make music on their piano, violins and guitar, and they can row and climb and help me make bread and I even occasionally force them to hug trees. ;)

Theresse's picture

p.s. - just for the sake of complete honesty, re. parenting:

I really am not trying to sell myself as one of "those" parents - you know, the Martha Stewart type A parents out there whose kids are bound to go to end up in an ivy league college...the shiny happy people types.  I'm sharing this with you only because I HATE reading about perfect parents and it can be disheartening to those of us who have a hard time parenting and are surviving more than thriving!

The truth about me - TMI as it is - is that I SUCK in more ways than most.  I have horrid time-management skills; I don't work but should cause we're not rich; I yell at my kids all the time and then get embarrassed when I see the door's wide open, lol; I don't make them practice their instruments as often as I'm supposed to - not even close; I don't play with them as often as I should or have 'family nights' or even special 1:1 time with my boys as often as they deserve and probably need; I give in to the screen time thing all the time then forget to set the timer so they get too much; I get take-out food more often than most, and the laundry's almost never done (no excuses - I'm a SAHM)!  So see?  I just wanted to be honest or completely "transparent" - I feel it's only fair and right considering how I'm attempting to broach such a 'real' topic.

108 breads's picture
108 breads

I was attracted to learning how to make bread and sourdough starters for just the reason you give. I wanted to learn how to make something from scratch the way people routinely did before food growth and production became separated from most households.

As for kids, my daughters did well growing up in a house with lots of reading, playtime outside and non-scheduled time. Still, as members of the millennial generation, they like their screen time, especially to vegge out from academic demands and the reality that there are no secure jobs waiting for them. School fools you into becoming accustomed to a life of structure and definite expectations. Life is not that way now, if it ever was.

As for parental time management, I felt my daughters were more self reliant because, going back to middle school, I was never able to keep track of their A and B days, with different classes - and homework due - on each set of days. Since they knew I was not reliable, they had to keep track. I also told them I would not and actually did not remind them to practice for their bat mitzvahs because their discipline was part of the coming-of-age experience. That worked well; no child wants to perform poorly in front of all of his or her friends and relatives in public. There was also no power play going on and no resentment. One of the things, among a few, I did well as a parent. Mistakes were made in other things as no parent is perfect.

Maybe it's our similar perspectives in different aspects of life that brings us to bread.

Theresse's picture

Thank you 108 breads.  It sounds like we do indeed have similar perspectives.  I'm always fascinated by learning about the various ways parents have successfully parented - the ways that simply work out wonderfully.  Sometimes it's heavily thought through, researched and planned, other times it's instinct or simply learned behavior from one's own parents having been good parents, and still other times it's just...I don't know...providence?!  I guess what I'm trying to say is that some of the time it's just what it is and it works out and is special in that parent's own way, you know?  In other words that's when it gets interesting: when you look at a parent being a parent in his or her own unique special way that has nothing to do with books nor necessarily about anything that's super obvious, and it's just beautiful and successful nonetheless.  I know a woman who is a joy to be around.  She's always funny, charming, spontaneous and energetic.  But best of all, she doesn't "turn on" just for her friends and people in her community as opposed to her own family, as so many do - she really shares those qualities with her kids, happily and authentically.  And she loves to be with them and allows herself to be entertained by them.  It works, as far as parenting goes.  She's flakey in other ways but her kids know love, acceptance/unconditional love and are surrounded by humor.  When her kids say something funny, their mom laughs sincerely and wholeheartedly.  I can't get over how incredibly blessed they are, dirty little faces and messy hair and all. :)  They know happiness - my God - ain't that grand, these days??!  Their mom knows she's not the world's greatest mom in many ways but she doesn't wring her hands about it and get depressed and full of anxiety about it - she just enjoys her time with her kids for the short while that she has them.  And what's more, kids who associate parents with joy and love are often the kids who don't take off in adulthood, rarely to return.   

dabrownman's picture

would have it, very few parents and families are living the American Dream - very few -but this is nothing new and this Dream is relevant.  USA Today just came out with their estimates as to what it takes to live the American Dream for a family of 4.  According to the USA Today, it takes 2 or 1 working parent making at least $130,000 a year so that they can provide for their living expenses, take a couple of vacations a year, provide for their retirement and the education of their children.  WOW!

This 'Dream' should also allow them to spend 70-80% of their current income during every year of their 35 years of retirement or $104,000 a year in today's money until they reach 100 years old - the estimated life span of a 28 year old woman today.  In inflated dollars, this would be $260,000 a year when 100 years old.  None of this works for anyone who lives in large or expensive coastal cities Like NY, LA or SF even if they make $130,000 a year.

Only 12.5% of all American families everywhere make enough money to meet the cash criteria for the American Dream.  So, 87.5% of folks have to live on less and make do as best they can.  If this is their idea of the American Dream then it isn't really achievable and other more relevant 'Dreams' need to be created.  But, thankfully, none of this make much sense or has meaning at all. 

What is considered poor today has nothing to do with the way poor were considered and treated even 50 years ago;   Today 50% of American households are on some kind of government assistance and this assistance, thankfully, is vast and generous, even  with so many needing it.  Sadly, things will likely get worse as more money, power and control is focused on fewer and fewer people

I'm guessing that 40-50% of all jobs people have today will simply not exist in 10-15 years.  .One of the biggest myths perpetrated on folks who don't search fro truth, is that jobs are being off shored to some cheaper country.  In reality, 97% of all jobs lost were lost to everyone, everywhere because of technology improvements.  It is just the pace at which this is happening is now accelerating exponentially.  If you want to blame someone for the loss of meaningful, well paying jobs then......  blame Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and the few, really just a handful at any one time, of people like them who control software, technology and the machines created with them.

Now they are going after low paying jobs like bar tending, hamburger flipper, waiter and waitress.   A hike in minimum wage doesn't make a difference,  These jobs were never meant for a making a living and were usually reserved for the young who were working their way up or the older working their way down,  I just saw where a beer pouring, self serve, beer machine is being installed in a local bar.  It will catch on because they are cheaper, more accurate, more efficient, they never take off work for vacation or illness, don't need health insurance or other benefits - and the beer is colder too!.  

Just think what this means if it is true?  You think jobs for college graduates are few and far between now - just wait, what seems like a NY minute..... when your 10 year old today is looking for one..... 12- 15 years from now.  Good luck with that if they major in Egyptian History, Communications or Women's Studies or just about any other field except - medicine, technology, science (Psychology and Sociology are not a sciences) , math and engineering -  and they better have a graduate degree in them too.

But, like I said, almost all people, 87.5%, will have to do with much less than the USA Today American Dream going forward since the average income for a family if 4 is $50,000 a year today and going down... but, this too has always been true and relative.  I know lots of folks who live in the Ozark Mountains or West Virginia or Topeka KS and live happier and better lives than many families of 4 making $130,000 a year living in virtually every large American city - all on 1/4 th as much money.  They too have more than everything they need and but are closer to the the land and more skillful at making their own way in their world when it comes to what rich city folks would call - surviving.... instead of living like the rest of folks call it.  So, for some, there are some great options to the American Dream.

It is still true that the best things in life can't be bought no matter how rich you are  and the things you can buy with money are not worth owning,.  Learning to make a good loaf of bread, cheaper than you can buy it, can't hurt any more than teaching kids to garden or to cook, to can, to hunt and fish, raise livestock and making useful things, like a home,  from virtually nothing in the Ozark Mountains.   With Crumbs Cupcake Company closing in cities everywhere today, it wouldn't hurt to teach the kids how to make them too :-)

It is a free country and folks can and do choose to live pretty much as they want today.  - which is still a very good thing indeed with things the way they are today.   None are wrong.  What we all have in common is that all of us have to the live with the consequences of our choices and how we act on them.  So, I say it pays to choose wisely and work very hard at it for each and every one of us - and happiness will follow.  Still,  some are better at living with their choices and efforts than others  - nothing new there either.  The world still goes around to prove that the sun neither rises or sets for any of us. - never has - no matter how pretty they are:-) 

Time to get this Friday's SD bake going - on Tuesday!  Bread baking or cooking or both are  tasty hobbies for old retired folks who like eat well while watching the earth go around and see what pretty things there are to appreciate..... if you don't fall asleep first :-)

Happy Baking.    

Theresse's picture

Dabrownman - thanks for that!  But oh my goodness I started getting depressed, reading all that!!  So true - everything you wrote.  Made me want to share it with lots of people as well as sit down with you over one of those cold beers and say "what's it all about, Alfie?" ;)  I appreciate what you wrote, bitter pill as some of it was.  Geez.  We're so screwed (my husband and me and maybe our kids!).  We're not doing one or the other - we're not living "the life" with money nor living off the land and making it work in that other way, haha.  We have our heads buried in the sand and haven't saved nearly enough nor will we ever have enough saved.  When I think about how bad it will likely get, I imagine (sort of like a fantasy) just offing myself when it gets so bad that my kids or I will suffer from my still being alive, miserably.  One of my aunts said that a couple of years ago - an aunt who happens to be wealthy - that when she gets to the point when she's lost all independence and vitality, she's going to take her own life rather than draw it out unnecessarily.  I thought that sounded so harsh but there's this part of me that gets that now.  I wonder if more people will do that, if things are to get as bad as so many think they will with all the baby boomers living into their 100s (coupled with .  That said - and needless to say - many baby boomers will be okay compared to how my generation will be (I'm 44).

Out of curiosity - though no worries if you don't want to answer - what part of the country do you live in yourself?  I live in Portland, OR, in a neighborhood that's confusing to live in, for lack of a better word.  What I mean by that is that I grew up in the neighborhood when it was a middle-class, relatively diverse hood full of artists and some sort of I guess you could say hippies (but in a less of a San Francisco sort of way).  I barely was able to squeeze back into the neighborhood, which I'd missed terribly, before it became so suddenly and shockingly gentrified, my head hasn't stopped spinning many years later.  Suddenly most of our black neighbors moved out (were displaced, more accurately) and all the houses became both restored and flipped or just simply perfected.  All yards suddenly immaculate, and all new neighbors very much not from around these parts.  Everyone now from Mass, NY, LA, San Fran, Connecticut...and the list goes on.  All have lots of money and saw our $250,000 houses (which had just gone up in value hugely, at the time, at that price) as "half off" (was told this literally by a woman from L.A.) and now most of said $250k houses are worth $600k at least.  Several have reach a million.  So then there's me - the native mascot (is what it feels like), relatively uneducated and neither my husband nor I have much $ to speak of and yet we're surrounded by all high-income families who've become our true friends - hence, confusing!  My husband could care less but I find myself keeping up with the Jones's sometimes which is so dysfunctional I know.  I mean we can afford for me to so only so much - ha - and it's more with regard to educational choices for the kids - extra camps and classes, putting minuscule amounts into their pathetic 529 college savings accounts, etc!  We certainly don't have new cars or go on vacations more than once every few years (the latter of which is actually quite heartbreaking to me).  

It's also confusing cause I know we have equity in our home now and are lucky in that way (though we've also refinanced a couple of times) and I know if we sold our home and moved to the suburbs, we could invest and save, etc.  But our neighborhood is SO a part of our identities and happiness - for our kids, too.  My best friend even lives across the street as do my kids' best friends.  We're also surrounded by many like-minded people, $ differences aside, meaning we share many of the same philosophies which are very important to us and our sense of well-being.  That's part of what attracts so many people to the neighborhood in fact.  And again, it's where I grew up.  So leaving just doesn't seem to be an option, for all these reasons - at least while things stand and if things don't get worse.  It's kind of like the happiness you wrote about, regarding living more off the land and having skills.  It's a kind of happiness for us to be around people who care about the same things we do for the most part and to be in such a beautiful neighborhood 7 minutes from downtown and rivers and it has lots of parks and cafes and old beautiful churches and bike lanes everywhere and big giant old tress and old houses and sidewalks, you know what I mean?  So much charm and such a strong sense of community.  Some out-of-towners have said it has the feel of an old town in the olden days.  There are some issues I have about some of our neighbors' denial about their part in the displacement of so many families (even we - white and middle class - could be considered part of that endangered species list), but we're working on that - getting involved in equity work with our neighborhood school (e.g. making sure all children of all incomes are able to achieve equally) and even trying to get involved in legislative changes to protect native lower-income families from tax increases.  But the taxes sure have hiked up! : - /

Ugh - I did it again - went off the deep end and ranted my brains out!  Sorry about that!  And thank you so much for your post.

Akmagnolia's picture

I took a job transfer several years ago into a job in a different functional area of my existing career path.  A significant portion of my work now involves employees who are in some sort of conflict with each other, in varying degrees.  I spend a lot of time involved in intangible activities which are extremely draining.  There is a model of human motivation involved around threats (not necessarily physical but usually social) and rewards.  The subconscious social threat response can be triggered by a number of things inherent in the type of work I do and I find I have to make a concerted effort to stop it by engaging in something rewarding and tangible.  Baking a loaf of bread is an excellent way for me to recharge on the weekend.  It is a wonderful sensory experience, it is challenging enough that the accomplishment is rewarding, it is affordable, and it affords opportunities to expand skills over time.

Theresse's picture

Ugh - sounds quite challenging!  That makes a lot of sense (the benefits and "purification" bread-making offers in such a case)!  Thanks for sharing.