There are days, in the cool New England autumn, when a fistful of sunlight forks through my kitchen window.
There are days when the dishes are camped in their cupboards, the counters are, for once, free of debris, and the hardwood floor is creaky and inviting underfoot.
There are days, sometimes, when the kids are at school and the husband is at work, and the washer is running and the dinner is planned and the calls are all made and the to do list is reduced to a nagging whisper of its former self.
These days, the wind spins shadow-leaves on the kitchen table, inviting me to come and play there.
These are the days that I bake bread.
On these days, I will prayerfully unpack the pantry to summon the primal forces of flour, water, yeast and salt. In the slanted sunlight, I will coax a dough into submission with my palms, guiding it toward a “smooth and elastic” finish. Often I’ll spend contented hours tenderizing butter, whisking eggs, and plumping raisins to add to the dough.
As I begin the rising vigil, I will become giddy from the smell of developing dough. I will rejoice over the tangle of gluten strands. I will meditate on the science and magic of fermentation and leaveners, of light and air. I will anticipate the pleasure of sharing the loaf with my husband and kids, who understand the fortitude, skill and optimism necessary for these projects. They get it, and they are grateful for fresh bread at the end of a long day.
Later, I will patiently shape the dough into challot or brioches a tete, braided cinnamon bread or crunchy ciabatta. Or maybe a simple hearty boule will be enough for today.
And later still, after hours of soulful dish-washing and taxi driving and children’s sports, we will at last sit down together to break bread.
These are the days that I take pictures of my food. Not to show off my beautiful loaves (though some are certainly that), but to remember: this was a good day. This was a day that I had time to bake. This was a day that ended with family, sitting together around the table, grateful and sustained. This was a day that I made bread, and this was a day that I prayed.