Those of you who’ve been reading for a while might remember
that 2017 was the year of bread baking around here.
It all started when my friend Ali published her (wonderful)
cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs.
I’d wanted to get serious about homemade bread baking for a long
time, but everything I’d read until that point made my eyes glaze
over: it was all so technical and intimidating. Ali’s peasant
bread technique—which involves no kneading and almost no dirtying
of hands at all, in addition to the heartwarming fact that the
loaves get baked in buttered Pyrex bowls—gave
me the courage I needed.
Months later, Emilie gifted me with
sourdough starter and a copy of her cookbook. Baking my first loaf of
homemade sourdough was a small victory: I couldn’t believe
it had actually worked, which I guess is the magic of natural
Bread baking found me at the right moment. I was having a hard
time in March and April of that year: a longterm relationship had
just ended, in a way that I wasn’t ready for and didn’t yet
understand. For the first time in my life, I felt completely
ill-suited to being on my own. I moved through my space and my days
in a haze of confusion and grief, feeling scared and alone and more
than a little sorry for myself.
If that period of time taught me anything, it was the gift of
small things. None of the big stuff—love, graduate school, sense
of direction or purpose—seemed to be working out. Even work,
which is typically a major source of meaning for me, felt rote and
joyless. My post-bacc years and the ones that followed hadn’t
been easy, but they’d been animated with an incredible sense of
yearning and direction. Suddenly, I had neither.
What I did have were my daily routines, which I fought to
maintain even when things like cooking and chores felt
insurmountable. I knew from past experiences with depression that
keeping up with small habits, even if they felt suddenly like a lot
of work, was the least I could do. And I did, day after day, until
they started not to feel so tough anymore.
For a while it was all pretty muted, but as the months went by,
I started to be reminded of my own capacity to be gratified by
simple pleasures: good food, a clean home, a walk to the park, an
hour of reading. I didn’t have a plan, but I did have the next
meal and the next task, and at that moment, those things were
And there was bread. It’s always been my comfort food, and
I’d have eaten plenty of it that spring even if I weren’t
baking it from scratch (for a while there, toast and cake were the
only two things I wanted to eat). But I was baking from scratch,
week after week, and it was wonderful. Unlike some other DIY food
projects I’ve tried—kombucha, yogurt, seitan—this felt like
the right ratio of effort and reward. The bread was so much better
than anything I could buy, and I actually liked the process:
mixing, shaping, scoring. The small of a loaf in the oven on
Saturday morning became something I looked forward to all week
long. I wouldn’t quite say that bread baking got me through the
year, but I can’t imagine that spring and summer without it.
I kept up with homemade bread for a while. But sometime last
spring, in the race to the grad school finish line, the habit fell
away. Once my internship started, it felt silly and imprudent to
bake when I needed grains, beans, and fully cooked meals as weekly
mainstays. During my acute care rotation, when getting the laundry
done was a challenge, feeding my starter was the last thing on my
My GI rotation gives me two weekdays off, which has been a gift
in so many ways: it allows me to ease up on my batch cooking, to
get work done during the week, and to have a true weekend. Most of
all, having a little extra time on my hands gave me a kick in the
pants to bake bread again. Now that I’m in the swing of it—one
or two loaves weekly for the last four weeks—I’m rolling my
eyes at the fact that I didn’t make time for it sooner. It’s a
time commitment, sure, like anything/everything else. And it’s
time perfectly spent.
I cook because it’s fun, healthful and economical. But cooking
and feeding myself will always be a symbolic act as well as a
practical one: it’s my way of asserting the desire to be alive,
nourished, and whole. Bread making speaks to this desire more than
almost any other type of cooking that I do. The fact that the
process demands patience and time is only more evidence that, no
matter what’s going on, I want to eat well and be well. I’m so
glad to have been reminded of this in the past month.
Wishing you a week of good food and good self-care. Here are
some recipes and reads.
Speaking of Ali, I’m loving her
latest, Indian-inspired fried rice recipe.
Yet more motivation to branch out with my air fryer. This time,
vegan sheet pan supper with lemony tempeh from Susan at
I love the looks of
this sun-dried tomato pesto (and the yummy pappardelle that
A pretty phenomenal looking vegan
kidney bean burger.
I’ve never made cookie dough in a blender, but consider me
inspired by these
1. I believed that too much water at mealtimes could
“dilute” stomach acid for years! Evidence says otherwise, and
this article—in which my current preceptor, Tamara Duker
Freuman, is interviewed—explains. (For the record, when I was
working in a GI practice in DC, I did learn that chugging water at
mealtimes can encourage the swallowing of air, which can be
bloating, so steady sips are still a wise idea if you’ve got a
sensitive digestive tract.)
2. More support for
the value of eating breakfast.
3. Popular Science busts some sleep
myths (sobering stuff for those of us who often do without
enough of it, and tell ourselves it’s NBD).
Bad news for allergy sufferers like me (yes, it’s getting
worse, and climate change is in part to blame).
5. Finally, I wanted to link to
this post from my friend Maria. It’s a lovely meditation on
meeting oneself and one’s feelings—including the despondent
ones—with acceptance and faith in the promise of release and
On that note, enjoy the remainder of this Sunday. And happy
Orthodox Easter to those of you who celebrate today—maybe a bowl
vegan avgolemono is in order.
Source: FS – All – Food and Nutrition Blogs
Weekend Reading, 4.28.19