I’ve made thousands of loaves of bread. I have a very simple recipe that I’ve used for decades. Grinding my own flour, feeling the warmth of the dough as I knead it, the smell of baking bread and honey butter…it has been a wonderful constant in my life. About a year ago my bread stopped rising.
I tried everything. I’ve problem solved for many a friend with bread baking. I tried different wheat, tried store bought flour, I tried white flour, I tried different yeast, I measured the ingredients (something I never do normally), I checked my oven, I let the bread rise more…every single time it fell and turned into a dense brick.
I kept trying because I don’t like store bought bread. I like to make bread. I like the flavor the feeling of the dough. I love the smell when it comes out of the oven. I like to see my little children playing with dough up at the bar. I love the whole experience.
One day on the phone with my mom, I explained everything I’d tried and she related a story about bread not rising while we are in mourning. The end of my bread making success began right around my brother’s death. We joked about us not wanting to get up and do much so why should the yeast have to?
That percolated in my mind. The logical side of me doesn’t hold to it much, so I kept trying. I tried again with different combinations of flour and new yeast. I bought new bread pans. I dug out my old bread pans. It’s been almost a year.
Every few weeks I made a few bricks, partially out of habit, and partially thinking that although I was doing nothing different, maybe I would get bread this time. I tried other recipes.
My muffins and waffles and cakes were all fine. But bread…just wasn’t happening.
The other day after making buttermilk pancakes for breakfast, I had some extra buttermilk and I had determined to make bread that day. In a moment of desperation I gave up on my recipe again. The recipe I’ve made so often, it’s a part of me. My body could make this recipe on autopilot. I’ve shared it countless times…I changed it.
I added buttermilk and adjusted the flour a little to accommodate the difference in liquid. It baked for 5 extra minutes. It’s beautiful. It was airy and light. The children ate 2 loaves in an hour. The flavor is slightly different. I haven’t gone back to the old recipe.
I am far from the most affected by my brother’s death. I’ve watched my mom. I don’t know how my sister in law and nephew and nieces are really doing. Grief is a very weird thing. Sometimes I can talk about my brother, others I can’t. Sometimes little things come up and remind me of him, some music, an offhand remark…and I smile.
Other times I can be brought to tears. I can’t figure out the difference. There is not an “everything’s back to normal” state. Sometimes I want there to be. I am mostly around people who don’t know my brother at all. His death was not even a blip on their radar.
As time passes, grief is generally less intense. The waves of grief are gradually smaller, the big storm is over. There are still infrequent sets of waves of grief. There is still ambush grief…random moments of suddenly feeling the loss. There are anniversaries and holidays and times when you would normally expect greater happiness and the contrast brought by the loss is harder.
There is so much good in my life, most days are good. I don’t want this to appear that the entire year has been bleak. It’s just , in some ways I still feel, like the bread, that from now on…I might need an extra leavening agent.
Britt grew up in a family of six brothers and one sister and gained a bonus sister later. She camped in the High Sierras, canoed down the Colorado, and played volleyball at Brigham Young University. She then served a mission to South Africa. With all of her time in the gym and the mountains and South Africa, she was totally prepared to become the mother of 2 sons and soon to be 9 daughters. By totally prepared she means willing to love them and muddle through everything else in a partially sleepless state. She is mostly successful at figuring out how to keep the baby clothed, or at least diapered, though her current toddler is challenging this skill. She feels children naturally love to learn and didn’t want to disrupt childhood curiosity with worksheets and school bells. She loves to play in the dirt, read books, go on adventures, watch her children discover new things, and mentor her children. Her oldest child is currently at a community college and her oldest son is going to high school at a public school. She loves to follow her children in their unique paths and interests. She loves to write because, unlike the laundry and the dishes, writing stays done. Whenever someone asks her how she does it all she wonders what in the world they think she’s doing.