de(tales): our daily bread machine
Christie and I started talking about food almost immediately when we met. I love her gentle spirit (more and more apparent as I get to know her), and I love the way she isn't afraid to say true things. She inspires me with her words, and she continues to be a treasured friend. If you haven't met her, I'm sure you'll make her acquaintance with delight. Enjoy, friends.
Our first apartment was tiny. It was like an apartment for a doll. But not Barbie. We were still college students, and this was no dreamhouse. Though I suppose it was a house of dreams.
The single, small square of laminated kitchen countertop was the brilliant orangey-red of a tomato. We concealed most of it beneath the massive white heft of an automatic bread machine.
I no longer remember if the bread machine was a wedding gift or a hand-me-down. I do remember the bread we made with it. Despite the dazzling promises of our instruction manual slash recipe book, the only bread we managed to bake in our machine was Basic White Bread I. It would sit on our bread board like a sad, pale cube. We called it Robot Bread.
Basic White Bread II always failed to rise. Basic Wheat Bread I never even made it that far, pouring out in a liquid goo from beneath the cover before the machine light could switch from “Mix” to “Rise.”
We gave our machine away when we moved to an even smaller apartment in the city. I tried to forget I had ever wanted to make my own bread.
We bought chocolate croissants at the bakery on 57th Street. We ordered blueberry scones at the French bakery on 55th Street. And, most nights, we ate Thai food from one of three Thai restaurants on 53rd.
Occasionally, we picked up a meal at the Indian slash Soul Food buffet. We piled our plates with spicy collard greens and saag paneer. I think if I hold out my hand I can still feel the featherweight and delicious warmth of charred naan.
Why bake your own bread in a city of bakeries? We ate our way around the world but rarely left our neighborhood. Our taste buds watered over all the delicious possibilities.
We moved far, far away from the northern city. We moved to a land of beaches and palm trees. It was beautiful, but I longed to bump into neighbors at the French bakery. I wanted to linger over Thai food with friends.
I lost friends and I lost bakeries, but I gained a spacious kitchen. I read about the bread-baking book Tartine Bread on the internet. The internet told me the book offered a magic formula for artisanal sourdough bread. No machine required. I clicked purchase before I could think myself out of it.
When the book arrived I learned I would need a cast-iron dutch oven and an electronic scale. I clicked purchase for those too. I did it fast before I could think myself out of it.
It worked. The promises of cookbook, careful instructions, and a cast-iron dutch oven were fulfilled . The bread was crusty. Delicious. A long-buried dream come true.
Manna in the wilderness.
Today, we live in an old farmhouse in the country. It is our Promised Land, and it flows with coconut milk and honey.
Our son is highly allergic to cow milk. He is also highly allergic to wheat and nuts and peanuts. Thankfully, he outgrew his allergy to eggs, so we now keep a baker’s dozen of chickens.
Each summer good friends come all the way from Tokyo to stay with us. This year they brought a gift. It was a massive, white automatic bread machine.
It is a Gopan, and it makes bread from whole rice. Pour in the rice, add a little water, yeast, and olive oil, and four hours later you have the warmest, crustiest, least expensive loaf of gluten-free bread you have ever tasted.
My son and I call it robot bread. It is the opposite of artisanal. It is the opposite of local. It is the opposite of so many values I love to taste and celebrate.
But it is a miracle. A delicious dream come true.
Our boy takes a slice of this bread to church each Sunday. Our priest gives it back to him and tells us what we already know.
This is the bread of heaven.
Christie Purifoy lives in southeastern Pennsylvania with her husband and four young children. After earning a PhD in English literature from the University of Chicago, she traded the classroom for an old farmhouse and a garden. You can find more of her stories at her blog There Is A River, and Deeper Story. Her first book is forthcoming from Revell.
You can check out the other de(tales) (so far) here.