There are many things that I do for my family, friends and people who I do not even know. One thing that I enjoy doing for others is cooking/baking. While I like the process of taking not very good tasting ingredients by themselves (have you ever tasted plain flour or vegetable shortening, YUCK!) and making them into something that tastes divine, my joy is in the act of giving. I feel that this is one thing that I do well; people can enjoy this gift and it can nourish them both physically and emotionally. Is there a favorite food that you had growing up that when you have it now it takes you back years?
When my family smells those warm, sweet fragrances wafting from the oven, their first question is, “Is this for us, or is it for someone else?” I have to admit that more than 50% of the time, it is for someone else. I do feel guilty and there have been times when I make twice as much so they can enjoy some for themselves.
There is one smell that drifts out the kitchen and throughout our home that everyone knows is for no one else but them, bread. When that light, fresh smell melds in with the other familial scents in our home, they know it is for them and only them.
I have now gotten to the point that I make fresh bread every four or five days. It is the most basic of recipes, milk, bread four, salt, pepper, butter and yeast. How can you go wrong with that? What I have started doing is using the white spongy dough as my canvas. An artist would never leave a canvas blank. It is filled with life, their joys, and sorrows, or poured out on that blank slate. I would not say that I have gone that far, no sorrow in my bread making but I have used a lot of love and joy in this new venture.
Sometimes my bread has a theme. One loaf I named “Four Shades of Red.” (Had a hard time visualizing gray bread!) Then there are breads that are themed based on the week. There was a loaf in honor of the beginning of fall. Then there was the purple and white loaf in recognition of the high school‘s homecoming. My last loaf was orange, white and black in anticipation of Halloween. I did make a completely orange loaf of bread. The family was not very fond of that. They definitely prefer multi-colored bread.
You would think that I would have thought of this when my children were younger. How fun it would have been for them to pick out their colors for their special loaf of bread. But NOOOOO, I had to wait until they were in high school. They have a lot of fun with it though and sometimes they will ask me why I chose the colors I did. It should be noted that my children take a sack lunch to school. With the new government guidelines on school food, they say that the meals are bland and not filling. They relish the thought of taking their own food, chosen for their likes, to school. This also means that all of their friends, classmates and teachers see their artistry bread. (Notice I did not say artisan.) Teachers have walked up to them and asked, “What is wrong with your bread?” My son commented back when asked that question, “My mom is just bored.”
The funny thing is that I am far from bored. It takes a lot of extra time to knead in those colorings. I don’t use gloves so I can go a couple of days with colored hands. While to save time I do use a machine for kneading the bread, I do the last kneading and forming by hand and then bake it in the oven. This does take time out of my already busy schedule. But they are more than worth it.
I do this out of love. If my family didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t continue. They know that I do this especially for them. If they did not know that or appreciate it, I would still bake bread but it would probably be plain ol’ white bread. I would find something that they did appreciate. I would find a gift that would make them feel special. I have thought about marketing my artist bread but realized it would no longer be special for them.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up. You can bet there will be more brown, gold and orange bread and green and red bread. I will probably even make blue and white bread as a recognition for Hanukkah. I may have high schoolers for children but I am still that mom who wants to make her family feel special. While I may bake a lot for others, I have found this one thing that is exclusively for them.
What do you do that is exclusively for your loved ones? Do you have traditions that are a treasure for you? Let’s talk about that. I will share in my next post family traditions from when I was growing up to traditions that have been created for my family. Think hard and I look forward to sharing.
Believe it or not I have only made coffee twice this week. That is why there have been no coffee posts. It is mid afternoon so my first cup of coffee for the day, may have to contain some Irish Creme. I’ll let you know.
Bread ingredients: 4 C. bread flour, 13 oz. warm milk, 2 T butter, 2.5 T sugar, 1.5 t. salt and 2.25 t. active dry yeast.