Monday, August 20, 2012

The Bread of Life

The preacher sat down on the steps of the altar with a brown bag and invited the children in the congregation to join him. He opened the bag and removed a package of rolls. He told the children that he had brought different kinds of bread to talk about what feeds us. He asked them to name the different breads in his bag. As he pulled out his next loaf, the Moose quickly identified, "A baguette!" The congregation chuckeled.

The Moose, though only seven and generally shy, lights up on a stage. He can't resist the comic relief opportunity the "children's moment" creates. With his initial one liner's success, the Moose took the opportunity to tell the preacher about our bread machine and then asked the preacher, "What are you going to do with all that bread? Eat it with pickled herring?" The congregation, warmed up now, laughed again.

During the sermon the preacher talked about a favorite story of his, Peter Pan. At the mention of Captain Hook and the wily crocodile that ate his hand, the Moose, now in the pew, looked up from his drawing pad and grinned. He could not resist an audible, "Tick tock." The preacher's point was that when we get a taste for something, we pursue it.

The preacher pursued a difficult teaching from John 6:48, "I am the bread of life." The Moose went for a laugh. I woke up thinking about bread.

I have a food conundrum-- I want a fabulous baker, now executive chef, to teach me how to make bread. He teaches classes from time to time in another town. At first I was excited to learn this, but after looking at the schedule I realized the classes are geared toward evenings and weekends. Not times a mother can take off for cooking classes with the father returning to Japan for several months. My husband reassured me, "When I get back, then you can go!" His intention is good, but that isn't what I want either.

I learned so much by attending cooking class each month with Nansai sensei and that was all in Japanese. I realize it is probably a pipe dream to hope I can find someone teaching monthly lessons for home cooks here in the hills of Ohio, but after eating a few meals in town, I can vouch that there is room for improvement on all fronts.

There is a local tendency to throw everything into the pot or into the loaf because one can. I love the impulse to use local ingredients and flavors, but when you add too many things, the taste is muddled. A cook has to push the eater. I need a teacher focused on home cooks who can push the palate, show the way, and use local ingredients with some restraint, but so does this town.

It comes to this: I'm not eating mind blowing bread or even meals around here, but I do see that people care about food and that they are trying. This town, home cook or not, could benefit from the wisdom of the gifted.

How do I convince the baker to teach a class open to the community after I already thanked him for his suggestions-- to try a new baker's breads, consider the Bittman no knead recipe, or keep an eye on The Cook Shop schedule for a class which is not offering a bread making in the foreseeable future?

It is a pain to have a class and a pain to set aside time for learning. We've got TV cooks, Youtube demonstrations, cookbooks, and blogs galore. However, when you learn with people, you know, real people in the same room, it is so different than winging it by yourself. The teacher pulls you around a set menu, all of the necessary ingredients are on hand, and missteps are prevented because questions can be anticipated, asked, and answered. Students get to observe classmates, ask each other questions, and share tips. All of that media helps, it inspires cooks, but it can't beat hands-on interacting.

Make time to learn from a master, it might be difficult, but it is the way to go.

Making dough