All the stuff I still don’t know

sourdough culture in a crock
This is my sourdough biga. Recipe from Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook by Jim Lahey

The more I learn, the less I know. Sometimes it feels like that. Really, I should say that the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. About a decade ago I thought that I was doing something great making bread with a bread machine, and that pickles could only be made with vinegar, and that I could pick pears from the tree when they are ripe. Looking back on the ten years of living and working on this same little piece of the world on Paris Mountain, with my indispensable mate, I do feel a sense of accomplishment. But what I feel more, is that I am still a virgin.

I started off baking bread by assembling the ingredients, mostly flour and water and yeast, dumping them in a bread machine, and pushing a button. It was easy and the fresh bread tasted so much better to me than the packaged bread in the supermarket. But after awhile I wasn’t satisfied with that. I wanted to do better, a little foreplay, you could say. So I started using the bread machine only to knead my dough for me and let it rise the first time. I committed to a second phase of massaging the dough in various ways, and then leaving it in suspense for an hour or so, for a second rise.

A shelf of pickled produce
Pickled peppers and cucumber pickles on my pantry shelf. We like the peppers on pizzas, and sometimes I fry the pickles…

My family was enthusiastic about the baguettes and challah bread that became a staple around my house for awhile. But, to jump ahead, I’ve now completely abandoned my former trepidation about baking from scratch, and prefer to make sourdough bread from my own sourdough culture (that I have kept alive for more than a year now.) I could tell a similar story about how I have progressed from pickling with vinegar, to fermenting with salt, and how I came to the extraordinary conclusion that some fruit ripens better after it is picked. And I probably shall tell those stories, and more, as I transition from my summer gardening and preservation mode to my fall and winter writing mode.

pears ripening after picking
This is our best pear crop ever. I picked these when they came off easily in my hand. They were still hard. After a week on the dining room table, they were soft, sweet and juicy.

The point for now is that we are all getting older. At some point along the way, we lost our virginity, but not really. Even in a later season of my life, when I have acquired a bit of wisdom, I know that I retain the hesitation and curiosity of a virgin. There are recipes I want to try, plants I want to cultivate, not to mention finally wrapping my head around going solar. I’m at my best when I share the knowledge I acquire along the way, in an effort to be helpful to my fellow virgins. Please feel free to contribute to making us all feel comfortable enough to learn some new tricks!

Leave a Reply

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: