March 06, 2016

Sunday Morning Bread and Memories

Most Sunday mornings for me are a meditation. I love this time of day. It's quiet, which in an urban neighborhood is a very personally coveted time. This morning, after a particularly spectacular  El Nino deluge of rain and wind, the calm after the storm in the early hours of the morning is soothing.

It has become somewhat of a ritual on God's day, I awaken early, lie in bed and pray. Thankful for the depth and breadth of his goodness in my life. My family, my home, the schools that I work in and my ever expanding responsibilities there, my students, my amazing coworkers, the health of the people that I hold dear, and certainly...our food.

I arise then, feeling of gratitude washing over me, looking at myself in the mirror and wishing I would  have felt this way twenty years ago when the actual appearance of my face matched my energy, but aging and the shock of it all aside, I still descend the little curving staircase into my dining room and kitchen in a veil of thankfulness.

Fresh coffee in hand, a hard loud side pat pat pat for the big dog, and it's bread making time. In the quiet and not quite dark, not quite light part of this day, I think about my dad and my mama, every time I pull the slow autolypsing, sleeping sourdough from my refrigerator. My dad, learned to bake bread in the Merchant Marines, when he was barely twenty. He came to life especially when he talked about two things, his military experiences and fresh water fishing. 

Frank C. Mitchell , was a man who learned by doing. He was abandoned by his dad, early in life, and if my memory doesn't mistake me, his mom was mentally ill and removed from him. He was cared for by a neighboring family, the Lawrence's, and finally adopted by them when he was sixteen. Sadness always showed in the hidden creases of my dad's face. Thusly, only the people who really knew him well, saw his amazingly silly sense of humor and his dedication to not have to depend upon anyone in this life, except my mother of course. For him, baking was a ticket away from the violence of the ship he sailed on, and turned out to be a fortuitous assignment as well, feeding a thousand men homemade bread and pies. My dad said that he could trade anything for another piece of bread. Cigarettes, an extra hour of sleep, a haircut. 

Strangely enough, when I came along, my mama was the only baker in the household. I would awaken to the smell of yeast, and coffee. No wonder that I am constantly recreating these smells in my own household, olfactory memories evoke the strongest emotions. My dad had Sundays off, and he would make omelets, doused in what I am sorry to say was Velveeta cheese, but non the less they were delicious, especially because they were served with a slab of my mother's homemade bread.

It is interesting, as I sit here writing, in the streaming morning light of my colorful dining room;  my beautiful table,  a make shift office, which I suppose is appropriate for a chef, and I wonder and am amazed.... that although my parents had a beautiful garden, fresh water fish right out of our (then) unspoiled Northern California rivers, and homemade bread, our family often would serve manufactured food, like Velveeta. A strange calling card of a place and time I guess....but I digress.

Anyhow, my head is swirling with memories, each Sunday, as I smell the familiar smells of my life and make my bread for my family. Very different from my mother's all white bread, but delicious and full of old fashioned nutrition and probiotics driven by the bubbling sour dough starter. I think to myself, my dad and my mom would be proud, probably ARE proud, that I do this. Keeping our family tradition alive in a very delicious way.

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