Tag Archives: k is for…

K Is for Kneading

Published / by Kim / 2 Comments on K Is for Kneading

K Is for Kneading

I didn’t learn how to bake bread until college. My college was a small, very crunchy school in Bar Harbor, ME and instead of a caffeteria, which would have been entirely out of place considering the culture of the place, we had a room in the main building, overlooking Frenchman’s Bay, called Take A Break. (As an aside, TAB worked on the honor system: food was put out with little signs with the prices, but no one manned the table collecting money. It was expected that everyone could be trusted to put the correct amount of money in the till and not to take any out except the change you were owed. This system actually worked very well, and I don’t recall there ever being a time when I was there that the TAB till came up short. In fact, it often came out over.) Being the hippie, crunchy, granola school that it was, the food served at TAB was all natural, never processed, and freshly prepared. The bread for the sandwiches was whole grain and baked daily in the fabulous TAB kitchen by a student as part of the student employment program. For a couple of years while I was there, the student in charge of the bread-baking was my boyfriend, Paul.

Bread for sandwiches had to be done the night before, so Paul would usually go into the kitchen around midnight to start working on whatever bread he’d chosen for that batch. I often accompanied him to keep him company and nibble on little bits of bread dough when I could snag them.* During rising periods, we both usually worked on something for class or we’d write or we would just sit and chat in the warm kitchen. I have really fond memories of those nights we spent together and even though Paul went on to break my heart multiple times, I can still think about him with kindness when I think about nights spent baking bread and a few other things.**

That was when I learned how to knead bread dough. Paul would usually make one more loaf than TAB needed, and we would share it, hot out of the oven. It was on those small, extra loaves that he taught me how to knead. It wasn’t all melodramtic and ridiculous like that scene with the clay in Ghost. Kneading bread dough is hard work – as is throwing pottery, which makes that scene even more stupid – and while it’s earthy and spiritual and homey and lovely, it’s definitely not sexy. But I loved it and I started making my own bread and after I was out of college, I kept it up for a few years.

And then somewhere along the way, after not baking any bread for a few months or a year or however long it was, I got the idea that it was just too much work. Somehow, I got the idea that the only way I would ever have fresh-baked bread in the house was if I had a bread machine. So I bought one and I loved it for a long, long time.

It wasn’t until earlier this year that something switched inside me and I got the yen to bake bread by hand again. From the first batch, I was hooked. My hands took up the motions of kneading so easily, remembered motion, like riding a bicycle. It was calming, and contemplative, something my hands did without the need for my brain to engage, freeing it to wander and think and ponder. A moving meditation. How was it that I ever stopped doing this and declared it too much work?

I am so glad to have rediscovered this, and if I ever again say it’s too much work, someone should just kick me.

K Is for Kneading

The two photos in this post are of my variation on Susan’s Farmhouse White. My changes from her recipe are to use milk instead of water, butter instead of canola oil, and white whole wheat instead of the all purpose flour. The batch picture here also has KAF’s Harvest Grains Blend, which turns a good loaf of bread into an epic*** loaf of bread. The batch here used about 3T of the grains per cup of flour.

* I still love raw bread dough and will occasionally pop a small piece into my mouth while kneading these days. I’m also crazy for raw biscuit dough.

** Like the night he stayed up all night drawing pencil sketches of me while I slept.

*** Epic. Ha.

K Is for Kindred Spirit

Published / by Kim / 4 Comments on K Is for Kindred Spirit

When I was little, we moved a lot. I was in a new school in new towns in 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grades, another one in another town for junior high, and then a private high school, where I got to stay until I graduated. As you can imagine, moving so much made it hard to develop any lasting friendships. I’ve always felt like an outsider among groups of friends, like I don’t fit in anywhere, and I’m sure that moving around had a lot to do with that.

It didn’t help much that I’m a natural introvert, so making new friends has never been easy for me. I’ve always felt more comfortable in my own head and in books than interacting with other people, though I sometimes wonder if that’s as much a result of moving so much as it is an innate inclination. I think I also, at some point, stopped really putting a lot of effort into friendships, because what was the point when I would most likely be leaving at some point? It was easier to move away from people I didn’t really care about than to leave really good friends.

But there’s always been one exception to this, and that exception is my friend Francesca. We met in 2nd grade, when I was 6 and she was 7.  I don’t remember if we bonded instantly upon meeting, but we pretty quickly became fast friends. It seems like I was at her house every day after school, and her family was like a surrogate family for me. Here we are having a tea party on a cardboard box in her yard (me on the left, her on the right):

K Is for Kindred Spirits

We had some arguments over stupid things, like kids do. There was the Helen incident, when the popular girl in our class decided to not like Francesca. When Helen decided to not like you, that meant none of the other girls were allowed to like you. I cringe to think of it now and am ashamed to admit that I didn’t stick by my friend during that time, but somehow we made it through that and stayed friends.

There was the time we were mad at each other over SOMETHING, I have no idea what, and had a fight outside her house. We yelled and she tried to hit me with her hair, and then her mother came out and offered us glasses of milk to cool off.

There was the Great Honeysuckle Purge of 3rd Grade, which I won’t relate here right now, to spare myself her groans when she reads this. Suffice to say that the honeysuckle incident has gone down in infamy and Francesca is thoroughly sick of hearing about it, but when I saw her mother recently at her bridal shower, the first thing she said to me was, “The last time I saw you, you said I was an overbearing mother” and the second thing she said to me was, “Do you remember when you ate the honeysuckle?”

Somehow, Francesca and I stayed friends through all my moves. We talked on the phone without seeing each other in person for years. As we grew up, we remained interested in the same things. When we could both drive, we saw each other a little more frequently. We went to concerts together, went to Cape Cod together, and just generally spent more time together.

A couple of years after college, we drifted apart and didn’t see each other or speak for a few years. I’m not really sure what happened, but I suppose I just didn’t put much effort into it. My mid 20’s were a crazy, selfish, and did I meantion crazy? time of my life. But in 1999, when I was getting ready to be married, I was thinking a lot about her. I was remembering how we always talked about how we would be in each other’s weddings, and I started to realize how much I wanted her there at my wedding. So I sent her an invitation, along with a letter telling her how much I missed her and wanted her to come.

She did come, and suddenly we were in each other’s lives again. And 2 months ago, I was maid of honer at HER wedding.

Here we are last weekend, knitting at Yankee Stadium and trying to be alert for foul balls while the husbands watched the game (me on the left again, her on the right again):

K Is for Kindred Spirits

So K is for Kindred spirit, and also for Kim, and for Knitting!