A Good Loaf (Philosophy Part IV)

a loaf of bread fresh out of the oven cools on a wire rack

A Good Loaf…

Here at Nye Hill, like most people in most places, we slice time up into increasingly smaller pieces. Lives, years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes. As if time can be measured, if at all, in units. We think about the laying life of a hen, about how many years we can farm a field before letting it rest for some other number of years, about how many months until a seedling will bear fruit, how many weeks or days for a seed to germinate and become a seedling. In the brewery how many hours to boil the wort, in our kitchen how many minutes to bake the bread. Perhaps there, in the kitchen, baking bread, is a good place to consider our relationship to time.

In his wonderful book Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast, the esteemed baker Ken Forkish talks about time as an actual ingredient. Not just any ingredient, but “…the most important ingredient for making good bread…” And, Forkish adds, you need plenty of it. Well there’s the rub. We, all of us, have only so much time, regardless of the units by which we measure it. When anyone could choose between spending half an hour or so of that time going to the grocer’s to buy a loaf of bread, or spending the many hours it takes to bake one, we think a lot of folks would head to the grocer’s, hopefully to get a good loaf that someone else spent many hours baking. This brings us back around to our relationship with time, or more importantly, how we spend it.

The farm has a good friend, we’ll call him Dan (because that’s his real name) and we won’t use his last name (Belluscio). Dan’s beautiful wife Nancy (also her real name) tells the story of a morning and afternoon she and Dan spent hiking a mountain trail and picking wild blueberries. The weather was ideal, the trail quite pleasant, the blueberries perfectly ripe. When they got home late in the day, satisfactorily tired, they made ice cream in their kitchen using the blueberries they’d picked a few hours before. As they settled in for the evening, ice cream in hand, Nancy remarked on how nice a day it had been. Dan, an outdoor enthusiast, a world traveler, a righteously proud father and a rugby player, responded “But what did we get done today? Seems like we wasted time.” He was kidding. We know this because we know Dan, and we know Nancy. She would not have married Dan if he wasn’t kidding and we know this because Nancy is a reader and one of her favorite authors is the late great writer Kurt Vonnegut. In A Man Without a Country Vonnegut revealed the true relationship between man (and woman) and time. “We are here on earth to fart around,” he wrote, “Don’t let anybody tell you any different.”
That, and to bake bread.