What Was Missing In My First Attempt

Coming home from school, whether I walked several blocks home from elementary school in Cochrane, or got off the bus from high school in Thunder Bay, the smell of fresh bread was a common welcome as I opened the front door of my house.

One day when I was 13, my mom landed on her elbow skating at an outdoor rink in Vickers Park in Thunder Bay. The main reason I remember this mundane, albeit painful experience for my mom, is that it was my first attempt at making homemade bread while her elbow was in a sling. Although I had rejected the prospect of store-bought bread, I do remember the crust peeled off, the slice crumbled, and I was generally unimpressed with my results.

My feeble attempt stayed with me as much as I loved the yeasty smell, soft and moist texture of my mom’s results, and later my friend Rosemary’s results. Craving that familiar smell 17 years later when my first son was a baby, I took an all day Saturday bread class in Toronto. Learning that kneading for 8 minutes was necessary, I identified what was missing in my first attempt. 8 minutes feels like a long time when the motion is unfamiliar, and my 13 year old wrist muscles were not up to the challenge!  Familiarity and practice and basic understanding went a long way, and I never looked back.

Many years later I learned all three of my kids were exchanging homemade bread sandwiches for the treat of packaged cookies, juice boxes, snacks, I laughed out loud. I had somehow grown accustomed to kneading 14 pounds of dough at a time weekly and thinking I didn’t need to pay for a cardio workout at the gym! Two pounds of it was used to make up a pan of sticky buns, and most days, the kids ate sticky buns with eggs fried in butter for breakfast. It was their normal. Looking back, it seems like the culinary equivalent of being born with a silver spoon in their mouths.

When my mom visited this month and celebrated her 86th birthday, I taught her to let the fungi do the work since her days of kneading bread are behind her. I love that her days of learning are definitely NOT! And this week, as we become temporary empty-nesters, my middle guy picks up bread at the grocery store, and I wonder it will be 17 years until he learns for himself so he can call it quits!