Sunday, November 20, 2016

Bread and Safety Pins

My Facebook feed is full of angst these days - all my progressive friends are filled with justifiable fear for the future under Donald Trump, and all the conservatives I know are scornful in their tone regarding the progressives. Both sides seem surprised by the outcome of the election - the progressives stunned and the conservatives gleeful.

As usual, I'm somewhere in between. I always feared that Hillary's long history in this country would overcome her obviously superior qualifications. I am aware that, despite great progress in women's equality during my lifetime, many Americans are not ready for a woman president yet, and that idea was borne out. So, I was not as surprised as some, although I was deeply disappointed and honestly baffled that anyone would vote for a man whose campaign rhetoric was uniformly negative, scornful of norms of polite discourse, and openly misogynistic, hateful, and frightening. I'm sad to say that white privilege and male privilege are safe in this country for the foreseeable future.

And I am in mourning for the upcoming loss of the best President of my lifetime. President Obama and his family have been so superior, have shown us how true gentlemen and ladies behave, have been so human and so lovely - I will miss them very, very much. As Mrs. Obama said, "When they go low, we go high." That philosophy has pertained to international as well as domestic affairs, and I have admired them during what had to be a very tough eight years of their lives. 

Like so many of my friends, I'm trying to decide what to do. I'm not one to take to the streets with protests - I'll leave that to those who lean in that direction. My protests will be quieter, and will probably take the form of sending donations to fight the ugliness I see coming, calling my congresspeople to let them know how I feel on various issues as they come up, wearing a safety pin when I go out to signal that I am a safe haven for anyone who needs one, and trying in some small way to understand the anger that ushered Trump into office.

When I'm in need of comfort and reassurance, I turn to things I know I do well. I make soup, usually hearty soup that warms from the inside out. I make dates to get together with friends who understand how I feel, people I can trust and with whom I can explore my ideas, people who will gently set me straight if my thinking is faulty. And, I will bake bread. I fall back on baking bread, good, sturdy bread such as the one I ate as a child. 

My mother always bought Pepperidge Farm bread - not the mushy nonsense that goes under that name today, but a firm, solid loaf that was so dense it could be sliced in half lengthwise, making a sandwich from a single slice of bread. It came wrapped in a thick, white waxed paper with the name and logo printed in red; this was well before plastic bags came on the scene.

When I was a young newlywed, one of my wedding presents was Margaret Rudkin's wonderful Pepperidge Farm Cookbook. Illustrated with colorful drawings and packed with homey recipes, it is still a favorite of mine nearly fifty years later.  Her recipe for standard white bread is that exact loaf that I recall from my childhood and, to my mind, it can't be improved upon.

So, today for the first time in a long time, I got out my flour canister, searched through my kitchen drawers for packets of yeast, and heated my oven. These days, I have a warming drawer, so proofing the bread is no longer an exercise in dodging drafts; I just slide the bowls into the drawer, cover them with my favorite dish towel like a baby being put to bed, and pull the dough out an hour later, plump and high and already smelling of comfort.

Punch it down, knead it again, shape it into loaves, and back into the warming drawer. My loaf pans are dark mahogany brown from all the years of use and they almost don't need lubrication any more, as they have a rich patina from all the loaves that went before. I have six pans so I could make six loaves at a time and freeze some. Today, I only had yeast for four. So be it.

I will wrap them snugly and freeze most of them for the days ahead when I need that solid reassurance of well made bread, full of old fashioned goodness. In the meantime, I'll keep one out to slice and toast and spread with the richness of butter. In times like these we look for the comfort of safety pins on people's collars and homemade bread to fuel our protests.