Catching Up

Apart from an amazing week away in the mountains with my family–a week when I napped three times a day and sat by the river more than cooked, or baked, or anything–it seems all I’m doing these days is catching up. The garden needs tending, writing projects await, guests are here, new recipes want to be tried, and kids continually beg for rides. It’s summer!

And I haven’t quite settled into this new routine. I’m still adjusting, but at the same time savoring many sweet and simple moments. Plums. A dinner outside on the patio. Ping pong 🙂 A new draft of a story. Cousins. The fountain gurgling outside my bedroom window.

And even though I’m doing plenty of giving–the rides, the laundry, the cleaning…I’m missing the baking and all that that has meant in my life these last few years. And to feed that missing link–I recently read this inspiring story of nine, very generous baking nanas. If you haven’t read it–take the time. I cried most of the way through. Anyway, today, there’s bread in the oven! I feel a renewed effort welling in me, and that makes me happy.

Tell me, what’s making you happy these summer days? Are you in catch up mode, too?

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Prosphora–All Gift

Recently I posted an open letter to prosphora bakers, asking for their help in uncovering some of the secrets of making the perfect loaf of bread for church. The discussion ran from the original post, to a stream of comments on Facebook, to a final landing place of photos on my own Facebook page. All of this was amidst a whole day of trial baking–nine loaves in all–four batches of bread–and the hopes that I might continue my learning and better my baking.

And I think what I learned most didn’t have to do with baking at all. It’s what I already knew–what I’ll always know. This kind of work, this kind of act–something destined not only for myself, but for others too, is ALL a gift. The mixing, the kneading, the prayers, the way the house fills with smells from the oven, the way the bread travels with me, from my home, to the church, to the altar…  Christ makes his home in that bread, just as he makes his home in our hearts–and that eucharistic bread is changed for us–a holy gift to us, reaching from mouth, to stomach, to our hearts.

All gift. So who cares if a few of the loaves split on the sides? Who cares if a few even split across the top?  Three good ones, that’s all Father Nicholas really needs, and the rest, if it comes out well, is simply bonus bread.

All gift. If you bake prosphora, I encourage you to enjoy each and every moment of that process. If a loaf or two come out lame, God doesn’t care, and chances are, your priest won’t either. You offer what you can and leave it at that–proceed from the kitchen to then love those around you, and leave a little more learning for the next time.

(And by the way, the batch I made with using only a sourdough starter, instead of a commercial yeast, came out the best. I’ll be fiddling more with that in the future.)

All gift.

Cheers, my friends…

 

Sourdough Swap

My parents have moved to Santa Barbara and it’s the first time since I was eighteen that I’ve been this blessed to have these two generous and interesting people so nearby!

My mom marvels at the fact that I make jams, sew Dr Seuss shorts, and bake bread, while I marvel at the fact that she can do a crossword puzzle in about five minutes flat. She’s a whiz. The other day, because she says she wants to learn some new hobbies (she’s also taking calligraphy from Carla!), she came over and we tackled another batch of homemade kumquat marmalade together.

Back up. We have a lovely, healthy kumquat tree in our front yard, and some years it fruits like crazy, but this year. 😦 hmmm. Nothing. So, for the second time this season I raided my neighbor’s tree. They don’t like kumquats. (Are they crazy?!!!) And I do.

I set my mom to de-seeding, while I flipped between subtraction problems with John Ronan, the laundry, and chopping cut kumquats. She’s a worker, that mom of mine. Five cups of chopped kumquat later, a cup of local honey and a bit of water and we raced to shut the doors to keep out the bees. Bees seem to know where the honey is, I’ve found, and don’t mind trying to get back that which we sneak from their hives.

I know this because four bees came into my home to inspect the pot last week during Kumquat Marmalade Number One.

Mom sliced, I chopped, and only a little while later we were ladling marmalade into jars and canning them in my big red pot.

Back up even more.

The same day as the marmalade, I baked off the MOST beautiful loaf of sourdough I have ever made. If I didn’t think it was obnoxious, I would have typed all of that in caps. I mean, beautiful. So, as my mom was leaving, after all her hard work of picking out those dastardly seeds from inside a tiny citrine fruit, I offered her my best–my most beautiful. Plus a jar of marmalade. She taught me how to share when I was just a wee one. And here I am, still working on it in her midst.

Cheers to all of you, and I’d love to know what you’ve been either snitching from your neighbor’s tree, or cooking in your big red pot 🙂