Friday Bread Basket: 11.27.20
Perfect makes practice
This week’s Bread Basket is a short one, since I imagine that, like me, most of you are in a post-Thanksgiving stupor. I hope you all had a wonderful (and safe) holiday. I myself delivered turkey confit (that I made using a recent Cook’s Illustrated recipe created by my buddy Lan Lam), gravy, Dutch apple pie, and oatmeal porridge breads (stay tuned for that recipe soon) to my parents and a few other friends and family. Then I came home and had a quiet meal with my two podmates (my wife and my cat). Don’t tell anyone, but that’s actually my favorite kind of holiday gathering, and I might not go back to the regular kind, even after we get a vaccine.
I only have one recommendation for you this week, for another Substack newsletter: Newsbreader, from Dayna Evans, a beautifully written series of essays about bread baking, women, and life. She only publishes intermittently, but each one is well worth the wait.
Her most recent post is entitled On Practice, and it’s as thoughtful as ever. I’m a big believer in the idea that, as with many manual skills, in bread baking, practice makes perfect. I can teach you everything I know about bread baking—and I plan to try—but you’ll only gain real proficiency at it through regular, repeated practice.
But Dayna’s essay is about another aspect of practice as it relates to bread baking: reminding yourself that it’s the activity that matters more than the results:
A practice, whether daily or weekly, is an unchanging, nonjudgmental act of living in the world. Your daily practice, as I came to understand through a suggestion from my friend Sultana, is something you do for yourself, to learn who you are, to connect you more solidly to the ground. To use another word I used to roll my eyes at, the daily practice of making bread feels like it centers me.
This mirrors my experience exactly. I bake bread nearly every day—most of which I give away, since there’s only two of us here—because it serves as a focal* point of being: a “place” in which I can regularly feel connected to myself, the world beyond, and the ground beneath my feet. Even when the breads are not up to par—and they often are not, trust me—bread baking itself is nourishing. The goal then is to remember that while practice does make perfect, the practice itself is the primary reason to do a thing.
*The word focus has an etymological link to bread and baking too: In Latin, focus means “hearth” or “fireplace”, and is the source of the words focaccia and fougasse.
Have a wonderful weekend, see you all next week.