6.02.2010

A Pot of Bread

This post could also be titled: When Children are the Best. My son Alex came for a long visit in between school and his summer job, and when he wasn't fiddling around with his bicycle, he was experimenting with a new bread recipe he had found online. Alex is the kind of person who dives deep into a subject; he has mastered this recipe because he has studied the Talmudic scholarship surrounding the experience of No-Knead Bread. However, one thing he had not read up on was the fact that the plastic knob of Le Creuset's pot degrades at 450 degrees, so the fragrance of our first loaf was somewhat polluted by the toxic stench of melting plastic. Woops! Le Creuset's service department responded speedily with a replacement. Lovely. However, it was a replacement of the same sort of plastic, which would only have the same problem. NOT lovely. Since when did Le Creuset pots become so...limited and finicky?

We rolled up our sleeves, and the difference in Alex and my temperament was immediately evident. I took one look at the recipe, and said, let's add fennel seeds and golden raisins. He said, no, we must proceed methodically, and learn the basics first, and then we can make alterations. But he let me add some chopped rosemary in the third loaf...

One of the things I have had to learn, in my intertidal years, is how to be a mother to grown sons, who really do not want to be thought of as my babies any longer. They hate when I use their baby nicknames, for example, and protest vigorously, which makes me feel as if I have lost one of life's big privileges. This reminds me of the day my father visited me at Newsweek, where I had just been promoted to become the first woman in a management position. A big crack in the glass ceiling. I took my father in to meet my boss--a man as tall as a tree. "How's my chickpea doing?" my father said. I almost fainted in mortification. "She's fine," said my boss, about as amiable and gracious a person as could be. "She's our chickpea, too." This is an example of how not to treat your child as an adult, but I can now see how it must have been irresistible.

Anyway, one of the pleasures of watching your children become adults is seeing what sticks, of all the things you have thrown at them over the years. What do they return to? What do they enjoy? What do they do of their own volition? And the biggest joy of all is when you suddenly realize that you have given them room to simply become themselves. My methodical son has learned to enjoy an unexpected sprig of rosemary, even when it isn't in the recipe. And I've learned the value of beginning at the beginning--which is what both sons have taught me since the day they appeared.

81 comments:

Pattyann said...

Wonderful post Dominique...I am going through this same intertidal challenge with my own 3 sons. They have warned me against "pda's" i.e. public displays of affection, but as they get older they are tolerating them more....since I can't resist hugging them at any time! The bread looked wonderful....I can almost smell it!! You are so lucky Alex likes to cook! Have a great day today!

Judith Ross said...

Great to meet you last night in Porter Square. Told you my sons are a bit like yours. My eldest, who is the same age as Alex, also likes to make the no knead bread. In fact, he's the one who got me started on it. But I'm more like Alex when it comes to baking and Ben is more the experimenter -- so in this case the lessons may have been similar but reversed!

The Buzz said...

I've just finished the part in your book where you bake a lot of muffins and I just had to smile when I read this post. I'm sure it took great strength for you not to change the recipe and let Alex do his thing. A great lesson for all of us raising boys - letting them do what they need to do to grow is one of the best recipes for being a good parent.

Tatiana said...

This certainly brought a smile to my face as my daughter, Alexa & I recently tackled No-Knead Bread together. She went for the Country Bread (Whole Wheat) and I went for the City Bread.

It's interesting how this simple act of baking together is a means of connecting with my newly "adult" child. Where does the time go?

For another tested No-Knead Bread recipe see: http://www.foodnetwork.ca/recipes/recipe.html?dishid=9530

ArchitectDesign™ said...

When did they start using plastic knobs? I have an older dutch oven with a metal knob. PLASTIC?! No thanks.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Ah, I love this bread recipe. I found it on the blog of a Scottish friend a few months ago. Like you, I add other bits and bobs to the mix... but like your son, I followed it strictly the first time out. I have to confess, as a serious "from scratch" baker... I feel a bit guilty about skipping the kneading.

My father sounds very similar to yours. He never could resist seeing me as a little girl with skinned knees and a book in my hand. Be grateful, though... "chickpea" is so much better than "knothead", which was my moniker. He passed away two years ago and I still miss him terribly. I'd rather like to be called knothead again.

Tricia Rose said...

If you are not too flat-out busy, finding a metalshop or such which can replace the knob is an agreeable project. 'Find blacksmith' would improve any list!

trisketpc said...

A Pot of Bread -
I love this post. My son refuses to respond to me if I refer to him as "Tonny" . His name is Timothy and he is 30. He is systematically training me. I miss it too tho.

mary said...

Oh, how I love your posts. Makes me realize how much I missed your monthly missives at H&G. And I remember your tales of raising sons as a single mom; how much of the monthly missives rang true for me. Today's post has the same ring to it. When you mentioned "what sticks"--it almost brought tears to my eyes. What has "stuck" the most with my children (only two are parents) is the quality of their devotion/commitment to their children. When I see how they parent, I silently give thanks that I was a "good enough parent" for them to be excellent parents. And I practice silence when I am near them; very hard, but great for the spirit. Once again, thank you so much for sharing these soul-filled moments.

Clara Walmsley said...

Dominique, just yesterday I mailed my son in law a metal knob for a Le Creuset skillet I gave him for his birthday...

Val said...

Dominique -- your posts bring a breath of fresh (and in this case, rosemary-scented) air to my day. As a copywriter, I subscribe to various work-related blogs, but yours is the one that always stops me in my tracks. It's not just what you have to say, but how. It's a joy to read and savor. Thank you!
Val

Clara Walmsley said...

I want you to know how much I love your blog and I absolutely adored your book. It was one of those books that is impossible to put down and gets in the way of ticking things off one's list. It was beautifully written and often felt more like poetry than prose. It was tender, funny and deeply moving. I had my own trials with the "the ambivalent male". He was more of a jogger than a stroller. Anyway, just wanted to let you know that I'm out here and a fan.

Bill said...

Try this bread recipe with half spelt flour (I prefer Bob's Red Mill) and half bread flour (I prefer King Arthur). Lovely.

Laura Casey Interiors said...

Wow, I am surprised about the knob. I cook roast chicken in mine often at that temp and it has held up, but I think it is a plastic knob too. now I need to go check.

I have little boys and hope I teach them and allow them to become independent. In the meantime, I will be back for more of your wisdom...thanks.

Clare said...

Begin at the beginning....seems simple but it goes much deeper than that, doesn't it? That's some thing I have always had a hard time with, but I too am starting to learn it's value in my middle years. Better late then never, I suppose.

I hope your bread was delicious!

Cristina said...

sometimes, when I do bake my own bread, I prefer to use a "loaf mould" instead of a pot: would you think it could suit also your methodical Alex's standards?!

Rose C'est La Vie said...

The chickpea story is charming and although you were mortified at the time, it was probably a moment of 'Slow Love' to be cherished in a sophisticated workplace. An affectionate old dad should never be censored! Actually, my 29 yr old son still lets me call him Toto but I confess I don't in the wider public! I wish he could make bread..

Mary said...

Wonderful, heartfelt thoughts. Your writings never fail to make me smile. They often make me cry, too. But that's ok. Crying is good. Shows that your words hit a chord. They meant something. Something good.

Thank you, Dominique, for gifting us all with your lovely perspectives on life.

JoanB said...

I love your writing; always have. The blog is a special gift I give myself. I won't read it if I can't give it a little time to soak in the pictures and the lovely rhythm of your story. It is a time for reflection and well, slow life. I too have sons who are growing up. I like the changes because they are fine adults, but there are times that Mothers should be able to ... be Momma.

Anonymous said...

Do so very much enjoy every entry in your blog.

My husband is enthralled by this no-knead bread, so I have some experience with its peculiarities. I ordered a stainless steel knob from Le Creuset to replace the phenolic one while baking. Before it arrived, we removed the plastic knob and stuffed the screw hole with a twist of tinfoil. But now my baker-in-residence has switched to a Le Creuset pate terrine, which produces a loaf rather than a boule.

Happy baking to you and Alex.

Minnie

Kathy said...

What an absolutely delightful post. I love the descriptive " intertidal years"

Ann from All things paint and plaster said...

I felt as if I reached a milestone this past Mother's Day.

Instead of me giving recipes to my newlywed daughter, she gave me two wonderful cookbooks that I did not have- with her favorites earmarked.

I felt proud and humbled at the same time.

Dominique, I just discovered your wonderful blog. I can see I need to set aside some of that me time to park here for a while!

-Ann

Vajra said...

Le Creuset makes a steel knob for it's covered pots. You can order it from Amazon.com or Le Creuset. You can also go to a hardware store, pot lid in hand and get a stainless door/drawer knob that fits. I've a loaf of KNB rising even as I write this. While I have some Le Creuset pots I prefer to use my Emile Henry pots. No metal anywhere and they happily withstand 500° heat.

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