I’ve read a lot of American and English books where people reminisce about coming home from school to the smell of newly baked cookies wafting from their home kitchen. I don’t have such memories. My mother neither cooked nor baked. And, from grade school through high school, my brother and I were often home earlier than she was because she didn’t leave the office until 5.00 p.m. So, I could never relate to those nostalgic memories of eating hot-from-the-oven cookies after school.
I have thought about it, I have tried to imagine what the feeling must be like, I have attempted to capture the warmth and homey feeling… and I can’t. I never liked cookies very much. But I have always loved home baked bread. It wasn’t often that we enjoyed it but the occasional times that we did were wonderful. And, no, it wasn’t my mother who made them. My father did. Home baked pan de sal and home made siopao. Very Asian.
And I have this dream — a fantasy, if you like — of eating freshly baked homemade bread for breakfast everyday. Strange, really, because I’m such a night owl and I very rarely eat breakfast at the usual time. After the girls had gone off to college, breakfast is usually two cups of coffee at noon.
Still the dream persisted. And I realized what it was about. Although I like the occasional cake and cookie, I have and always will prefer the rustic and quaint over those uniform and perfectly frosted sweets that line the bake shop windows which, to me, scream too much of mass production. I prefer the irregularly shaped and unadorned handmade loaves of bread because they represent a real human experience. Made by human hands rather than churned out through an assembly line.
Finally, last week, I decided we would have home baked bread everyday. It’s nothing earth-shaking. I’ve been making bread for years — check the artisan (home baked) bread section. The earth-shaking part is doing it everyday and not buying commercial bread at all. I told Speedy about it, we agreed that this would be something we will do together, and we started stocking up on bread ingredients.
Last night, we baked two loaves of bread. One was plain; the other had garlic and scallions.
And, for dinner, we had sandwiches with bread that we made with our hands. I can’t describe the feeling. Although we agreed that the bread could still be improved, last night, it was the most wonderful bread that we ever had. You know, like the Little Prince when he drank the water from the well. The pilot said, “It was as sweet as some special festival treat. This water was indeed a different thing from ordinary nourishment. Its sweetness was born of the walk under the stars, the song of the pulley, the effort of my arms. It was good for the heart, like a present.”
It was like that. And I want that kind of experience everyday. Eat the tastiest imperfectly shaped bread we made with our hands. There might not always be a recipe for me to share as we go about searching for the formula to achieve the texture and flavor that, we feel, should be our peg. But I will always share photos to show our progress.