I soften the yeast in just-warm-enough water.
Add sugar, Add salt.
Add oil, Add nuts and spices.
I stir the dough and add more flour,
a quarter-cup at a time. I knead and wait.
As the dough perfects itself
(you’ll know it when it forms blisters),
I oil a glass bowl, drop in the dough, and let it rise,
until doubled in size, in a warm, not-drafty spot.
While the dough rises,
I might read, or cook,
or play games with the baby.
When the hour is up,
I greet the monstrous dough,
so large and foamy.
Slapped on the counter,
it grudgingly sinks and sighs.
Using my hands and my tapered pin,
I meticulously form two perfect loaves,
free from bubbles or bumps.
And then in greased loaf pans,
the dough rises again, pale and swollen.
I slide the bread-in-waiting,
into the preheated oven,
and then I wait.
I wait first for the smell of warming bread
to invade the house, conquering every room,
drawing all of us to the kitchen.
I wait for the loaves to brown and pull away from the pans,
like reluctant toddlers who never want to hold hands.
I wait for that first slice, where for a moment
I feel that there cannot be anything better than this,
the soft downy fluff of hot bread, crisp crust, butter melting into craters,
My mouth rejoicing, “How lucky I am!”
And I wonder—is this a modern phenomena—to wonder at handmade bread?
(It’s so simple, really.)
Or have millions of women, men, and children
from the dawning of mankind, felt as I do now—
that bread is not just food, but a language?