“…pick a moment to stop asking questions, recognize that it is an arbitrary moment, and then make a ‘gut’ decision. We can then work on making the decision right rather than obsess about making the right decision.” –Mindfulness, Ellen J. Langer
It’s one thing to know what you are doing. It’s another thing to know what your dough is doing! After practicing the requisite “ten thousand hours,” you would think that you’ve become an expert and that you have sufficient data to tackle any vexing baking problem. But, let’s face it, when you rub against the infinite, there’s never enough data. As I write this, I’m 16 hours from moving into the year 2018, and perhaps, as many of you, I am thinking about making resolutions. My resolution is broken down into parts: stay put, trust my gut, deliberate less, exercise mindfulness, and play more.
Does the Internet provide me with sufficient data to operate more deeply on a local level? Looking deeply is about calibrating our senses, to begin to trust our gut in the moment as a manifestation of both the past and the future. Wendell Berry speaks of the “wisdom of a place” and espouses the radical idea of staying put. After all, the definition of radical is “to form a root.” So in our “rootedness” we’re doing something radical! Therefore, my resolution is to stay put and do the work of baking bread and building community with Bakewell Farm. This is how I wish to apply the core principles of what I have garnered over the years as a bread baker. It’s about imagining the “other” becoming “we.”
Another part of my New Year’s resolution is to deliberate less. I want to “work on making the decision right rather than obsess about making the right decision.” Is it possible to develop 20/20 vision in the moment rather than only through looking back? There are many conditions and variables to consider when making bread. For example, you look back and maybe the dough needed to be mixed warmer or left to ferment longer. Or that by leaving the loaves in the oven another five minutes it would have given you the color and doneness you were shooting for. This brings me to the third part of my resolution: exercise mindfulness. I know, I know, it’s trending so much in the popular press; however, this practice has been around for a very long time, and well, deserves our “mindful” attention.
Lastly, is to play more: play more music, play more with bread dough, play more with live fire cooking, and play more with friends and family. To play becomes a tremendous gift to yourself and touches everyone around you. So have yourselves a very happy and playful 2018!
Marc Jalbert, Founding Director of Bakewell Farm, a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to apply “bread-centric” educational programs for building community while engaged in the practice of public service. Please visit us at: www.bakewellfarm.org