When I was taking a breadbaking class, I learned two important things. The first is how
not to follow recipes. I began the class taking careful notes, asking my teacher questions
like, "How much honey did you just add?" and always getting answers like, "a glob or so," and
feeling silly writing that down. I soon gave up the notebook, and with each loaf I baked, I
learned to trust the feel of the dough that told me to add more flour or water or to knead it
a little longer. I grew adventurous, throwing in a banana here or maybe more buttermilk there.
Some loaves turn out better than others, I admit, but each is different and a chance to try
something new. For the best bread comes not from precisely measuring 6 1/4 cups of flour
according to a cookbook but comes instead from following a recipe that's always changing, the
one in my hands and heart.
The second thing I learned is about myself. I like fresh bread for dinner, with lots of
butter and jam. I like wrapping a warm loaf in my mother's cotton fukin and bringing it to
a friend or neighbor. What I love most, though, is not the bread but the making--the sharp
smell of yeast filling the kitchen as I knead; being wrist-deep in sticky dough when the
phone rings and letting it ring; watching the dough rise and wanting to hurry it along but
just the same leaving it alone. The making is what keeps me attentive, always adding to
the dough or getting my hands in it or simply waiting for it. The first slice is barely
cut and tasted and already I'm thinking of what I'll do different, and better, with the
Writing poems is just like this.