Those of you who bake will understand this. In spite of following a recipe, sometimes the dish just doesn’t come together. I remember the first time I tried to make bread. This was during the hey-day of Laurel’s Kitchen. I went to the local health food store, bought my whole wheat flour, yeast, and headed back to the kitchen.

I thought I followed the recipe. Without the benefit of YouTube, TikTok or other virtual platforms, I put all my ingredients into the bowl, mixed ‘em up, and covered the bowl to let it rise. I returned after a while only to uncover a ball of goup that hadn’t risen because I had killed the yeast.

Lesson learned! – Next time I got the dough to rise, learned how to really knead it, put it in the bread pans, baked them and out came two door stops – just solid clumps of baked whole wheat. Moral of the story? Learning how to bake bread takes patience, experimentation, and a willingness to put up with mistakes.

I’ve since become pretty good at putting a loaf of bread together. I am also a fair home cook. I am willing to experiment with different ingredients, and I absolutely love watching cooking shows. I take what I know, apply what I’ve learned, and try new things to see how they taste. Every so often I blow it completely. Then I am faced with deciding whether to toss the whole thing out and start over or see if I can come up with something to save what I have.

Recipe for a Democracy

Democracy is a lot like making bread. There are lots of different recipes out there, but all require that different ingredients be mixed together, kneaded, allowed to rise, and then put to the test to see if everything comes together to produce a source of nourishment.

The American Loaf has undergone changes over the years. New ingredients have been introduced. Tried and true methods of baking have stood the test of time, but are now being challenged. New bakers have new ideas and want to try new methods, while there are those who prefer the loaf they grew up with.

Not Everybody Knows How to Bake a Loaf of Bread

In this day and age of convenience, there are a lot of people who don’t know the first thing about baking a loaf of bread. It is not about being ignorant; it’s just that other’s have made the bread already and it is more convenient to just go a buy a loaf.

But here’s the problem. Sometimes the things we take for granted as always being there disappear. Suddenly we realize that a lot of effort goes into making bread and if we don’t know how to do it, we will go hungry. We turn to one another, really wanting a good loaf of bread, but we have no idea how to go about making it.

Bakers to the Rescue

In these instances, we turn to experts. Understandably, we expect them to step into the breach and meet our needs. The problem here is that there are lots and lots of folks who say they are expert bakers, but turns out, they may be making that up. So, we turn to friends or trusted sources who share their opinions of who makes the best kind of bread; the kind of bread we like.

This ends up with conflicting information being shared over and over again, and we start to doubt what people are saying. Worse still, because we don’t really know how to make bread, we can’t be sure that what people are telling us is true, and we begin to believe that our worst fears will come to pass.

The Baker Savior

To manage our distress, we turn to familiar sources of comfort. Maybe it is a friend or family member who tells us everything will turn out all right. Maybe it is a trusted news source. Maybe it is a spiritual leader. Instead of learning how to bake a loaf of bread ourselves, the goal now becomes to decrease the intensity of our longing and return to normal as soon as possible.

We end up looking for things to numb our anxiety; things that are familiar and comforting. We end up hanging with others who want the same things, who say what we want to hear, and who reinforce our impressions of how things should be.

Improve on the Original Recipe or Stick with Tradition?

The Founding Bakers came up with a pretty solid recipe for American Bread. Still, we seem to be a land of tinkerers. We added a few ingredients to the original. As the years have gone by, we have adapted the recipe to new methods of baking. We have experimented with different combinations of flour and yeast, finding that for some of us gluten-free is the only way to go, while for others, a crusty French loaf makes the meal.

There has always been room for this kind of tinkering with the original recipe. Up until now, we have only had one or two occasions where we had to toss the loaves out. Even then, we found a way to get back into the kitchen and try again. Until January 6, 2020.

Getting Back to Basics

Since that day, the kitchen hasn’t been the same. The folks who came into the kitchen were looking for something to fill their emptiness, but it wasn’t bread. They came there expecting to find bakers and to make those bakers bake the bread they wanted; not so they could eat bread again, but so they could say they made the bakers bake the bread they wanted. But that is not how making bread works.

As any of you who have baked bread know, unless you have all the ingredients in the right amounts, and put them together in the right order at the right temperature, you can’t expect your loaf to come out all right. Above all, it takes understanding and patience to bake a loaf of bread.

Every So Often . . .

Like I said earlier, every so often I would blow the recipe. I would have to decide whether to throw out what I had created, start over again, or make the best of the result. It seems to me that we are at that point in the American Kitchen.

Do we toss everything we have created because we no longer remember how to make bread?  Do we start over again?  Do we find a way to learn from our experiments, build on the successes, make a note of the things that don’t work?  Do we toss out ingredients that are past their shelf-life or are poisonous?  Do we just blindly go ahead and keep doing what we have been doing even though it is not turning out nutritious bakes?

Tune In Next Week

We will have to wait for this current batch of bread to finish baking. It may not be done by next week. It will be difficult to wait until it is done. In the meantime, you might want to find a recipe you can follow.

One response to “When the Recipe Doesn’t Come Together”

  1. nan sullivan Avatar
    nan sullivan

    worthy of a fresh cup to savor

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