Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The "Intimacy" of Making Soft Pretzels from Scratch

Someone at work recommended I read a book with the curious title, The Answer to How is Yes.  With the subtitle, "Acting on What Matters".

With that in mind, I have been reading the book here and there and it talks about need to have a sense of idealism, a sense of intimacy, and a sense of depth in our relationships and in what we do to really figure out what matters in shaping our world.

So, when this author uses intimacy, and the intimacy that I refer to in the title of today's blog entry has nothing to do with physical passion.  Rather, the author, Peter Block, describes it as being about "the quality of contact we make.  It values direct experience over electronic or virtual experience.  It is immersion into the world of feelings, connection with the senses, and vulnerability..."

Well, I'm not sure that in this case I have immersion in the world of feelings about my pretzels (although they do certainly satisfy hunger).  And, I don't have a sense of vulnerability about my pretzels.  But making homemade soft pretzels is all about engaging the senses.

I could just make homemade bread and have engagement of the sense of smell while it is baking and taste when it is done.  But when you make them from scratch and hand knead it, it totally adds to the sense of how the senses are used in baking.

The dough has a certain feel.  And after having done this a sufficient number of times you just know how the dough is supposed to feel to be done.

The dough has a certain look.  Again, after having made yeast-based doughs so many times, I just know how it is supposed to look when it is done. And it is fantastic to watch the dough go from the small mixture when you mix all the ingredients together to when it has risen.

The smell--as mentioned already and something you can get with a bread machine--is amazing.

And finally, even the sound that it makes during the kneading process.  The rhythm.  The way it comes together.

It is soothing because it gives the baker who bakes from scratch a sense of knowing that something is happening.  Something is being accomplished.  And, I am responsible for making it happen.

That is a sense of intimacy using it as Peter Block defines it.  It is a sense of being in touch with the world around me.  And having something that I can make happen in the world.  Even though I know that it is nature and the wonder of what God created to see how the whole process fits together.  The yeast that brings the dough "to life".  The butter that gets mixed in when I make soft pretzels. The sugar that goes in while the yeast proofs.  The salt that gives the dough a little contrast in flavor in addition to whatever role it serves in the chemical process.  And the flour that makes it all stick together.

It is simply amazing.     

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