Just give us bread

At least it’s falling on a weekend.  The damn snow.  Really, I do wish I could appreciate its fragile, simple beauty, but all I can think of, when it’s announced, is NOT AGAIN!  I despise the cold, ecco, don’t like snowpicture boots and skidding tires, slippery sidewalks and messy foyers.

So I block it,  I head to my kitchen and turn on the oven.  What’s on the menu today?  Bread!

A while ago (okay, more than a w
hile, like perhaps twenty-five years) I prepared an old-fashioned, all-American, pioneer-style sourdough starter, which lives in my refrigerator, quiet and patient, irregularly ‘fed’ by me (sorry, I don’t always remember its existence…), but hanging on, strong and eager to start working on fresh bread.  So, last night, while the radio was announcing another blasted snow storm, I uncovered the bowl of newly fed, bubbly and active starter and scooped some up to make hearty loaves of sourdough bread.  Beautiful, the satiny dough, as it plays, supple and warm, in my hands, being kneaded into a sphere the color of heavy cream.  A pleasure to work dough with your hands, especially one as this, responsive, smooth and tender.  The softness of a baby’s cheek, the aroma of good things to come.

Risen to lofty perfection, the dough calls for more handling, then slips easily onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, carefully molded into two even balls, smooth and tight.picture

I’m writing while they bake, my lovely loaves, the aroma distracts my thoughts, confuses my ideas, because, really, all I want to do, is watch my bread rise and turn golden under my eyes.  The miracle of baking, not a small thing.

Round and light, crackly crust, the aroma of comfort and honesty and a simpler life, my beautiful loaves rest proudly on the cooling rack.

What to do with them? Thick sandwiches of sharp cheddar, hand-sliced salami, or just generously slathered with butter?  Perhaps a trickle of extra-virgin olive oil and a dash of Mediterranean sea salt, like I used to have once upon a time, in my Italian days of childhood, when my father would take out the oil pressed from the olives of his fields in Molise, and start slicing the brown-crusted country picturebread…

A thing of beauty and awe, my sourdough bread, a connection to the past of the great land that adopted me and also to the heart-wrenching memories of my once upon a time in Italy. Intertwined forever, the two beautiful countries of my life.

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