Baking is science and art. We know that.
Recipes now give grams instead of cups
and I should be okay with that, but I also know
that recipes lie. Aunt Jenny doesn't tell
how she used whole milk just like I don't tell
that I use coconut milk. I mean to, but I forget.
The result is my bread has secrets. My cake too
will always be secret since it is an indulgence
in hard times, but I will make it anyway
and use what I have: the lemon bundt
turns into orange, the sour cream
to Greek yogurt, and change brings benefits,
making the cake protein-rich, practically healthy.
Still, the process fills a hunger, not from stomach
but soul-deep. Slicing off each cup of flour
with a knife, beating sugar into butter,
even the kneading done to create gluten,
relies on reactions that without precision,
go wrong. I learned this from recipes that lied.
Working in the last two cups of flour taught me
that six cups can be four and a half
if the door is open wide and summer sifts
its heat through the screen. It's not summer though
and I fill in with the oven and a pan of water
to give rising bread the weather it needs.
Author of the poetry collection The Tethered Ground and Professor of English at Missouri State University. Contact me for readings or for workshops on writing/publishing and on teaching writing online.
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