Gaining Knowledge by Baking Bread

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Nothing beats the smell of homemade bread — which is just one reason we shouldn't lose the art of breadmaking. (Photo: Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock)

I read with interest this morning a piece we have here on MNN that was originally published by Plenty. It’s titled Why we are losing what we cannot teach and talks about the rural knowledge that we seem to be losing as a culture. Rural knowledge "encompasses everything from how to gut a fish to how to balance the farm books" the article says, and we are losing it.

Some of this knowledge may be written in books, but as the piece points out, there's some knowledge that can only be passed on through experience and apprenticeship.

I think a lot of food knowledge, kitchen knowledge, cooking knowledge and gardening knowledge is in danger of being lost in our culture, too. I remember hearing that things like the current interest in artisan foods, the slow food movement, and the popularity of cooking classes are partly due to Generation X and beyond knowing that they're missing something that they weren’t taught, even if they don’t know exactly what they are missing.

I get that. As a card-carrying member of Gen X, I grew up on frozen meals, fast food and the wonders of the modern conveniences that let people to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible. My mom could cook; so could my dad. No one makes a pot roast like my mom. But by the time I was a teenager, my dad and older brother were on shift work, and I was firmly entrenched in school activities. Stouffers made many of our meals. My mom didn’t take the time to teach me any of her cooking skills because frankly I wasn't interested, and I’m sure she didn’t think it would be important. Stouffers or some other company would be there to keep me and mine fed.

Ready for a challenge

bread bakers apprentice
'The Bread Baker's Apprentice' is part of a challenge to learn bread baking — and to bake your way through the whole book.

'The Bread Baker's Apprentice' is part of a challenge to learn bread baking — and to bake your way through the whole book.

Yet now I find myself very interested in learning these skills that weren’t passed down, and I'm very intent on passing them down to my boys. There are some things that I'm not so much learning and passing down as I am learning alongside of them. Like composting. We're learning it together. I heard my 6 year old explaining it to one of his friends when we were walking home from school the other day, and I was so pleased. It was a basic explanation, but he was right on the money.

One thing I have little knowledge about is bread baking. I have a bread machine, but that doesn't give me any actual experience with making bread. But I don't really know how to make bread, but I want to change that.

I’ve joined a challenge from the Pinch my Salt blog based on the book "The Bread Baker's Apprentice." Participants in the challenge will be baking their way through the entire cookbook. The first recipe is to be completed by May 18, so look for my first entry on my attempts by then. I'll be organic-ing up as many of the recipes as I can.

Am I crazy? Sure. Is my house going to smell awesome? Yep.