When Life Hands You Yeast; Bake Bread
2015 handed me one giant recipe for disaster.
Take the birth of one baby girl
Add a Brain Bleed (better referred to as a hemorrhagic Stroke)
Stir in three admissions to the children's hospital with your brand new baby
Blend with your son's father who just asked to surrender his parental rights
Mix with a flooded basement
Throw in a pinch of financial strife
Cook together until all ingredients leave you with a hot mess of Post-Partum Depression and PTSD.
Winter is coming to an end, spring is on the verge. The birds are hard at work constructing new neighborhoods outside my kitchen window. Most days we wake up to a woodpecker. We are still standing. My nine-month old baby girl, my eight-year-old boy, and myself. We made it through winter. Once upon a time before the worst year of my life I was a chef. I worked long and hard for the Upper Crust. I had my finger on the pulse of what was cooking in high end homes. I was well versed in the lifestyle diets of the rich and famous. Kosher, Vegan, Paleo, and of course Gluten Free. I could make rainbows out of salads, put a sexy sear on rare cuts of meat, transform ancient grains into modern masterpieces. But I was never a Baker. Baking seemed like an unattainable alchemy best suited for those more patient and practiced in the kitchen. I purchased my Carbohydrates at high end markets to accompany the meals I made.
Then the bottom dropped out.
The worst year of my life hit like a tornado stabbing through clear skies. It swept me up in its angry funnel and slammed me down into the foreign territory of depression and anxiety. I sat in the middle of my rubble for some time. It took a few months to wobble up to my feet and seek shelter. I found it through therapy, support groups, medication, and surprisingly.... cooking again. I did not return to work, rather I began experimenting in my own kitchen for my own family. I was fearful at first, as everything that made me "me" had been stripped away in the storm. I thought I would never be able to create again.
Over time my confidence in the kitchen crept back.
I decided to try my hand at homemade bread the day my son's father decided to step out of his life for good. We had been divorced a few years, and I had a brand new baby with my current partner. His father had him on the days the divorce decreed if we were lucky. One morning I awoke to an email asking to surrender his parental rights. A crushing sensation swept around my heart, into my stomach, and throughout my whole body. This man was going to disappear from my little boy, and again, I would be left with a pile of wreckage.
That was the day I decided to take my Broken Heart and Begin Baking.
I thought I had come out of my storm, only to be knocked back to my knees. I had get back up. I had to make the impossible, possible. When life hands you yeast, you can let it spread its asshole microbes all over the place, or you can transform it. You can roll out what you have been given, reshape it, and transform it into something beautiful. The odd thing is you do not need much to do this, three simple ingredients. Flour, Water, Salt.
There are over 21 ingredients in your average store-bought loaf.
There are a million ways I could have taken my pain and let it defeat me. Guilt, regret, anger, insecurity is a few. But there are much fewer ingredients involved in overcoming.
Time, Patience, Presence.
The eve of the email that changed my life I put the baby to bed, called my boy to the kitchen, and we got cooking. His small hands mixed the Trinity together, we covered our bowl of dough and let it sit overnight in the kitchen. We woke the next day to take a look. Our bowl was bubbling with activity, thigs were changing. Those three simple ingredients were dancing with the air to transform into a symphony of flavor. I sent him off to school. When he returned we formed the batter into a ball and threw it into the hot oven. Healing scents of yeast and warm wafts flour filled our home. I was worried our first foray into bread making would be a fail (and I was kind of okay with it, because anything worth anything in this world involves a dash of failure). After forty-five minutes we opened our oven and there it was. This golden globe of crust and crest. Our eyes widened.
We transformed the ordinary into extraordinary. Patience yielded pleasure. Personally, I laid claim to an art that once seemed unachievable; and I intend to continue in my practice. It is the process, taking your humble ingredients, forming them together, allowing the curing of time to occur, transforming them into something beautiful.
We cut in, my eight-year-old baker savored the fruits of his labor. It was the best damn bread I have ever tasted.