Sunday, April 3, 2011

4:49 p.m.

The tree outside is blooming more brilliantly by the day. Peak out the kitchen window, and the neighbors' back gardens are spotted with fluttering pastel sheets hanging on unfettered lines. Clouds and rain push hard overhead, but the early April sun, uncompromising, beats hot onto the wood floors. The kitchen is clean. The bed is made. The coffee is sipped slowly. The hours are happy to meander. You are happy to let them.

On days like today — the early days of the fledgling, changing seasons — everything is freshly angled. The light is good. It's time to try something new. Anything. You want to. You have to.

So you bake bread because you've never waited for yeast to rise. You knead. Flour, punch, flatten, roll, flour, punch, flatten, roll, flour, punch flatten, roll.

The bread proves.

You slide the silver trays of young dough inside the oven, and the closing door clips at your anxious, wondering heart.

Your shampooed hair will soak up the aroma that billows from the hot oven that you impatiently, obsessively check. You think of how to describe the smell of bread baking, but your words aren't food words: warm, wholesome, Grandpa, sonorous fans, speckled robins' eggs, quiet shade, bleeding scraped knees, soft checkered cloths and earth. Inscrutable smells. Unreal.

The timer doesn't go, but the bread is ready. And when the rolls are cut they steam like the last whispers of winter's brutal dark evenings.

Dinner is not so far away, but you try one piece. The hard flakes of wild crust scrape at your gums. Strangely, it feels good. Real. Like scrubbed, cleaned surfaces. Inside, the bread is soft, and takes butter like a sponge. How different it is from the dough you kneaded on the countertop. Contained. Solid. Whole.

You take another bite, chew slowly, and watch from the kitchen window as the pale linens blow.

Carrot Oat Bread, from the Nordic Bakery Cookbook

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