I’ve started making my own bread recently, and I think I’m in love.
Actually, my new fascination with bread-baking is Neil Gaiman’s fault. It’s true; my new obsession with warm homemade bread comes straight from a literary master. See, at his reading/signing event, he read from “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” and, as a special twist, from “Fortunately, the Milk.” By coincidence (or…design?) both books mentioned the incredible deliciousness of homemade bread. There’s a whole riff in “Ocean…” about how bread is “supposed” to taste like nothing, and the little boy is dismayed by the flavorful loaves his father brings home.
So I decided I wanted to get some flavor myself, because Neil Gaiman said so.
It turns out there is something better than sliced bread–a loaf straight from the oven, still warm when you take a bite. It’s amazing, I swear.
Everybody should try it. But I think it might be extra good for writers. Here’s why:
5. Fight Carpal-Tunnel
I spend way too much time at a computer, and so far I have refused to pick up one of those dorky wrist-rest thingys. I’m basically begging for carpal tunnel syndrome. But I don’t have any fancy baking supplies: I’m making these suckers by hand. Kneading dough is a great workout and great stress-relief. I mean, the recipe literally calls for you to “punch it.” Don’t mind if I do.
4. Time to Think
Studies of creativity have found that we do our best thinking when our minds can wander a little bit: that’s why all the best ideas show up when you’re on the can (or did, before smartphones were everywhere–that’s right, I know about your texting-while-pooing habit!). When you bake bread, your body is engaged but you don’t have to think about much. Let yourself get creative.
3. It’s Easy
I’d heard a lot of whining about bread being hard to do. Totally not true. There are about a gazillion recipes online, so you can find a flavor you like. It may take awhile, but–here’s a secret–most of that time you aren’t actually doing anything. You’re waiting while the loaf rises. While you wait, go do something else! Just set a timer and wash your hands when you get back. I start a loaf, then go clean my kitchen. By the time everything is spotless, it’s usually time to knead the loaf. Easy.
2. It’s Research
Bread is ubiquitous in stories (Note: If someone finds a recipe for Lembas, let me know). Once you know how it’s done–and how a good homemade loaf really tastes–you can transfer all those experiences right to your character. Since just about everybody has or does eat bread, it’s a pretty universal experience.
1. It Tastes Amazing
Ok, not writer-specific, but damn. It’s like I’ve never really tasted bread before. Everyone should have that experience. (Much like in writing, the quality of the original materials matters. Use good ingredients and follow a recipe and you’ll get a good result).
Eat up, scribblers! If you’ll excuse me, I think I need (another) slice. Yum.