Be Surprised

Be surprised!

“Creative people are constantly surprised. They don’t assume that they understand what is happening around them, and they don’t assume that anybody else does either. They question the obvious—not out of contrariness but because they see the shortcomings of accepted explanations before the rest of us do. They sense problems before they are generally perceived and are able to define what they are.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention

It’s another chilly morning, as I prepare to pull loaves from Bakewell Farm’s mobile wood fired oven. The oven doors swing open and the sweet, moist and fragrant air bellows out a steamy yawn. Aromatic clouds are backlit by the pale morning light–giving the front of the oven an otherworldly appearance. I tap the bottom of the first few loaves peeled out to make sure they are properly baked. I listen for that characteristic hollow “thud” for an affirming nod. The extra hour of firing the evening before has paid off with a display of a bein cuit deeply colored crust. The loaves exhibit a handsome range of colors from amber to dark chocolate–making for some winsome loaves and a happy baker.

While I transfer hot loaves onto the metal wire rack, I can hear them sing! The crackling crust spins me back in time to when my parents listened to Old Italian arias on their scratchy 78-rpm record player (have you guessed my age yet?). Loaves can sing and sometimes they even kiss. When loaves are placed too close together on the hearth, (a baker’s effort to get a comfortably full oven to generate adequate steam) they attract each other dans une baisure or kissing crust. (You must pardon the bakers who are hopeless romantics–not a bad quality to have when you consider the long dark work hours) So when I open the doors to my oven, I never know whether I will, like some doting parent, intrude on some steamy love fest! C’est la vie! 

Baking bread animates my life in many surprising and delightful ways. Surprises sustain me. Without surprise there is no joy and without joy there is no love. For me, baking with love and imagination has become a guiding principle. This principle can animate any type of work. Get out there and be surprised!

Marc Jalbert, Founding Director of Bakewell Farm, a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to promote “bread-centric” educational programs for building community while engaged in the practice of public service. Please visit us at: