Rosemary Walnut Bread
A life without cooking is like a life without sex—you think you can live without it, but why deny yourself all that pleasure?
Here we are in the Twenty-First Century cornered between computers, televisions, cell phones, and automobiles. We need simple sensual pleasures to root us in our humanity. We need to dig with our fingers into the earth of our herb gardens and to dirty our hands in our kitchens. We need to knead!
In our confusion we relegate sensuality to the bedroom and the occasional massage or dip in a hot tub. But making food is a sensual pleasure you can indulge in every day—without those annoying prophylactic precautions (although an apron is advised).
I tried to explain to my boyfriend why I like to make bread the old-fashioned way rather than use his bread machine. It is voluptuous! Nothing is sexier than kneading bread. The motion of kneading—relaxing and repetitive—is a hypnotic dance, pressing rhythmically through the heel and fingers of your hands. You move your shoulders, you sway your hips, you thrust forward and rock back. You fold the warm dough over on itself, pushing and pressing, and the smell of yeast rises to your nose.
No amount of yoga or meditation or medication will fill you with more peace than this ancient ceremony of kneading bread.
After a few minutes, the surface of the dough gleams like satin. Your mind drifts and you fantasize about changing your name to Stella and flying to Jamaica, and of massaging muscular dark-skinned deltoids on a sandy white beach. Then the miracle, the dough rises—you feel as if you have given life, woman the creator! It breathes, it grows. You are Dr. Frankenstein, the creature lives. And it doesn’t talk back or ask for the car keys.
The dough has doubled and it is time for baking. Is there any smell more deeply satisfying than baking bread? The perfume fills your soul with longing for kitchens and family and slowly simmering food. Neighbors will stop by to investigate. Your UPS delivery man will press his nose to your door. The heavenly smell of bread—and all those feelings associated with home baked bread, comfort, security, and warmth—will waft through the city streets bringing cheer and goodwill to all.
As you take the bread out of the oven, you are filled with pride and wonderment. You carefully cut a slice and slather it with real butter. Then the first bite! Ah, the butter melting in your mouth, the warm bread starches turning sweet in your mouth as you chew. You taste the separate ingredients, the eggs, the grain, the salt, the yeast, distinct yet perfectly combined. Okay, I’m getting carried away, but warm bread just out of the oven is an experience apart from mere eating. It invites you deep into the magic of food. Nothing is quite like it.
Fresh bread makes any meal a feast. A simple soup becomes elegant. And the simplest meal of all—bread, cheese, sliced fruit, and Mad Housewife wine—becomes transcendent.
Simple and sensual, a taste of heaven.