Time and Temperature

Time & Temperature

“To insist on beauty in physical spaces where we go to learn and to play and to work and to heal is, we are now learning, to make all these pursuits more fulsome and life-giving.”  –Krista Tippett from her book, Becoming Wise

Tippett’s quote captures the balancing act we face, every day, for what is equitable. How do we create spaces that are enjoyable? It’s elusive and it’s not always easy to identify because these places tend to be dynamic and less formal. I’m a big fan of “third places” and “levelers” (check out Ray Oldenburg’s book The Great Good Place) because they offer “both/and” possibilities for re-imagining convivial workplaces and learning environments.

So, in my best Down East drawl, “How do we get there from here?” Maybe it’s more about how do we take the time and recognize that it’s already there? Rather than formulating or planning, we begin to look directly at the connections, and see how they emerge as “fulsome and life-giving” patterns. Remember, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” –John Lennon It takes time (Festina lente) to make haste slowly. (I love this paradox!) Bread baking is about surrendering. We forget to wait, we fail to listen, and we stop looking for that which is begging for our attention. Yeast and fermentation is about time and temperature. I tell young bakers that other than flour, water, salt and leaven–time and temperature are the ephemeral, or meta-ingredients, present in all good bread. Time and temperature connects the physical ingredients, and carries them toward a favorable (and hopefully flavorful!) outcome.

So where are these meta-ingredients? They exist in the infinite number of places that stand ready to be noticed. Together, this is our struggle in this ferment that confounds us. I’m recalling one of my early morning commutes to my Gettysburg bakeshop. Driving by this dairy farm, I could see the lights on in the barn and milking parlor. As the “girls” were summoned for their morning milking, I too was preparing dough and tending to my invisible “Holsteins” –the herd of micro flora that brings a dough to life. Here’s the dairy farmer, and I, the micro-farmer. So many times, I wanted to stop and introduce myself, but I didn’t. Still, I felt a kinship with my early morning companion. (companion is from the Latin com panis meaning, “to share bread with another”) The farm equipment is auctioned off, the cows are gone, and lost is the opportunity to shake my farmer friend’s hand. Festina lente!

It’s about taking a little extra time for each other or turning the heat up when it is appropriate. So, as promised, here’s a baking tip: the next time you are making bread (or an acquaintance), allow for the appropriate amount of time and apply just the right amount of warmth. How will you know for how long or how much? It will tug at your sleeve. Besides, “the proof is in the pudding!” 

Marc Jalbert is the former owner of the Gettysburg Baking Company. While he continues to bake for the Baking Company, he is the founding director of Bakewell Farm, a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to introduce “bread-centric” education as a means for building community while engaging in public service. Please visit us at www.bakewellfarm.org