Recently I decided to bake bread. Not in bread machine but the old way, in a bowl for mixing, kneading and rising. I wanted to do something slow that took patience and time. The very opposite of my life these days. The last time I baked bread was 37 year ago, two years before I got divorced.
In those days, I was a young stay-at-home San Jose, California housewife and mother trying to figure out what my wifely role was, so I decided to bake bread. Nothing was more basic than baking bread. Perhaps if I could learn how to bake bread I could learn how to be a happy wife. So I went out and bought the Tassajara Bread Book, the 1970s edition. I read through it and realized I didn’t have a bowl large enough to let the dough rise and double its size.
In those days, there was a very good cooking store in Los Gatos, California near where I lived. So I went there to buy a bread bowl. When I explained what I wanted to the nice white haired sales lady, she led me to a tall rack at the back of the store. Bowls of every size and material filled the shelves to the ceiling: modern stainless, colorful plastic, bright orange and green pottery bowls with flowers painted on their sides, but it was the ones on the bottom rack, plain pottery bowls the color of caramel, that lured me.
The sales lady followed my gaze. “Ah, these are the old fashion style ones.” She pulled out a medium sized bowl and started to hand it to me. I shook my head and pointed to the biggest one on the shelf.
“Oh, my dear, (sales ladies said things like that in those days), you could make three loaves worth of dough in that one at the same time. And it weighs a ton. This smaller one is the correct size for you.”
Without a word, I bent down and picked up the big thick walled bowl instead. She was right, it was heavy. Its curved walls were solid in my arms. It was easily 20 inches in diameter at the top, and would hold way more than one loaf of bread’s worth of dough. Its interior beckoned. I could easily mix stuffing for a 25 pound turkey in this. Or a triple recipe of chocolate chip cookies. I could make enough bread dough to bake several loaves to give to the neighbors as Christmas gifts.
“I’ll take this one,” I said.
“Really dear, you don’t need one that big,” she said firmly. “And it’s very expensive.”
I looked into the broad and deep expanse of the bowl’s interior. Endless possibilities opened up in front of me. “No. This is the right one. This will hold anything I want to do.”
Today thirty years later, I have mixed and kneaded the dough in my big bowl and have laid a linen cloth across its top. Now I’ll go pour myself a cup of tea and wait for the dough to rise.