Keep Two Thoughts

Personal essays

Moments - Essay from Newsletter 49

Not enough time

Fresh Bread

I made some cultured butter the other day and so I had a cup of buttermilk as a by-product.

So this morning I got up and used some Irish style flour along with the buttermilk and three minutes later had the dough mixed for an Irish Soda Bread.

I placed the dough on a sheet of parchment on a baking sheet and mounded it into a round and cut a cross in the top.

The oven wasn’t quite preheated but it was good enough so I put the bread in and let it bake while I fed the dog, let her out, let her back in, made tea, and checked my email while drinking the tea.

Maybe forty minutes after I came downstairs I had fresh bread. After letting it cool another forty minutes I cut off two slices and topped them with my fresh cultured butter.

That’s kind of the motivator for the bread cookbook I’m writing (and a series of other This idea of finding time for these little bits of activity as part of my day is the unstated, big idea in of the  for the bread cookbook I’m writing (and a series of other cookbooks I’m hoping to convince myself not to write).

It might take hours to make a pot of chili or a loaf of fresh bread but in reality its minutes of activity with a lot of waiting in between.

Like Grandma

It’s perfect for the way we live and work now in the same way that it was perfect in our grandparents’ time.

Kim’s sister texted me while I was baking the other day. She said that her grandmother would have loved me.

Kim used to say that a lot.

She talked about her grandmother doing things and then wandering into the kitchen to attend to the sauce or some baking.

These bursts of activity that punctuated her day.

Kim would stand in the kitchen talking to her grandmother while she cooked the same way that years later Kim would stand in the kitchen while I cooked.

This “being together” while I cooked always felt to me like we were cooking together. If you’ve been to my house for a dinner or a party, there’s always a time when friends join me in the kitchen to keep me company. I always remember it as us making the meal together.

Some things need to be done “right now”. And many “right nows” make up a meal.

But those “right nows” aren’t all at once. 

Steven Wright used to tell a joke about showing up at a Store 24 as they were locking the door. “Hey,” he says, “you’re supposed to be open 24 hours.”

“Sure,” they answer, “but not in a row.”

The sourdough we make in the book takes weeks to create the starter. Then after we mix the dough we wait an hour and give it a fold. Another hour another fold.

We shape the loaf and preheat the oven. An hour later we slash the loaf and put the bread in the oven.

Forty minutes later we take the bread out and let it cool.

An hour later we have bread to eat.

Maybe twenty minutes of total time spread over weeks if we count the starter, hours if we don’t.

Planning ahead

Maggie has seen me do this countless times.

While we’re having dinner I ask her if she wants bagels the next morning.

If she does, I mix up the dough after dinner. An hour or so later I divide the dough and create spheres. I poke a hole in the spheres and stretch them into bagels and refrigerate them over night.

Without planning ahead we’re not going to have bagels in the morning.

The first thing I do in the morning is put water on the stove to boil and preheat the oven.

By the time the water has boiled the dog has been fed, let in, and let out. I’ve had my tea and answered my email.

I put the bagels in the boiling water and then top them and bake them.

I can’t wake up in the morning and think about making bagels.

At that point there isn’t enough time.

Next time you think “there isn’t enough time” to do something you really want to do, consider when you could have started so that there would be enough time.

Having enough time is about assembling moments and knowing when those moments need to fall.

It’s like that moment where you look at the recipe for a thanksgiving turkey and see that it only takes a few hours to cook and you miss the part that requires that you start to thaw the frozen bird days ahead.

The turkey takes the few hours of cooking time and the ten minutes to take it out of the freezer - spread out over four or five days.

If I want bagels tomorrow, I know I need to do something about it today.

Essay from Dim Sum Thinking Newsletter 49. Read the rest of the Newsletter or subscribe

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