I love baking bread and I don’t care who knows it.
It seems like, these days, admitting to domestic ability is akin to admitting you think you “belong in the kitchen.” (god I hate that turn of phrase … can that just die already?)
But a part of me DOES belong in the kitchen and I’m totally OK with that. If I sound defensive, I guess I am. I think it’s years of hearing my well-educated, feminist friends proudly declaring their utter ineptitude in the kitchen, like their lack of knowledge was a sign of society’s progress. And maybe it is.
But I can bake. So can my mother.
Both of us have master’s degrees and careers. But we also genuinely enjoy baking.
When I was quite young, I remember baking bread with my mother. She made bread several times a week. I remember the rich smell of fermenting yeast, I remember taking turns kneading the bread until it pushed back slightly against your hands. I remember Mom’s red and white checkered apron, stained and worn. I remember the big, yellow bucket of flour with the glass measuring cup that sunk down and had to be dug out of the flour every time.
She never followed a recipe for her bread. The recipe was in her head, and before long, mine as well.
It was always amazing to watch the pocked skin of the bread stretch as it rose, until it was tight and smooth. Then she would let me punch it down so it could miraculously rise again.
Then, of course, the smell. That mouth-watering, home-is-where-the-heart-is smell of baking bread that was never as good as the first bite of the steaming-hot heel she’d give me as my reward.
It’s different now.
I knead alone in my kitchen, often while my husband surfs the internet in the next room.
And I feel weird that I’ll likely never teach anyone how to bake the way my mother taught me, because, like so many couples our age, we’re not having children and my husband isn’t even slightly interested in learning to bake.
It’s strange to me that baking is not something we value anymore, that we’ve exchanged it for the more traditionally masculine pursuits of bread winner, rather than bread maker.
The two are not mutually exclusive.