I've been making bread since I was ten; one of my early memories is my mother smacking my hand because I was squeezing the dough through my fingers rather than kneading it properly. I like cooking - okay, really like cooking - but I love making bread. There's just something about it - the way dough feels when it's right and you should stop adding flour, the way it smells when it's done rising - that makes me feel happy.

But bread is, at the end of the day, bread. I'd gotten used to having people say, "mmm, nice", and then going on to lavish praise on my brother the dessert-maker. People just don't get that excited about bread, I told myself. Live with it.

Imagine my surprise when I got not one, but two lavish and excited bits of praise over the same bread, within the same week, and realized that all these years I've been feeding the wrong ethnic group.

I should have been giving bread to Russians.

Russians - Eastern Europeans, I should say - appreciate bread, it appears. First it was Dan practically begging me to make a specific bread and then making soul-satisfying noises when he consumed it. And then a Ukrainian friend of his that he'd apparently shared bread with stopped me in the halls to tell me what good bread I made, and that he hadn't had bread like that since he left home. He expanded voluably on the subject of how you couldn't get good bread in this country (the hand gestures explaining just how much store bread one had to eat to get full are something I won't forget in a hurry) and proceeded to ask, rather plantively, if I could make him a loaf of his own?

All this adds credence to a theory of mine, namely, that people in the English-speaking, British-settled countries have a below average appreciation for food. Having lived in Britain - where I watched in horror as, day after day, my hostess mercilessly boiled innocent potatoes, vegetables, and meat until they expired horribly or, as she put it, "were done" - I can understand. We are just not culturally programmed to enjoy food. We consume it, but we don't think about it or consider it worthwhile to expend time or - God forbid - money to get good food. We respond only to the strongest of flavors: really hot food, really salty food, really sweet food. Staple foods and subtle flavors pass us by, barely registering on our palate because we're trained to think of them as "just food."

I think that's a shame. Not just because I'm a cook and like having my work appreciated, and not just because my mother makes homestead cheese and I'd like her work to sell, and not just because my country is sadly obese and a lot of it comes from not paying attention to what it puts in its mouth. But because I like food. I really do. Eating good food is a pleasure and a joy, one I'd like to share with more people.

Really. You guys don't know what you're missing.


Revision Progress: 326 pages (of 385)
Changes: I'm finding a pattern to these "burst of inspiration" pages. They are, plotwise, characterwise, bookwise, very good; I don't have to make any big sweeping changes. It's technically that they suck. I seem to forget, in the throes, that writing one word is better than writing three, that repeating myself is bad, and that adjectives and adverbs are the sugar of the English language and must be used sparingly lest they overwhelm the writing. And don't even get me started on how bad the transitions are. So loads of little changes but no big ones.
Up Next: The news spot leading into the next chapter sucks; it's got "hmm, not sure what to do here, let's write something stupid and move on" all over it. It Must Go.

posted at 10:16 AM on 07/13/05 by kat - Category: Cooking - Comments closed because I was getting enough spam to run over my bandwidth limits. Sorry guys!
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Comments

Jean-Louis wrote:

You need to make a trip eastwards to the land of fine cheese, etc. Just two street corners from where I work are two breadmakers (boulangeries) offering an assortment of different types of bread and made on the premises.

Happily gourmand in Quebec City,
JL
07/13/05 12:48 PM

gordsellar wrote:

Kat,

I agree about (anglo-?)North Americans not truly appreciating food. I've heard that the British cookbooks dating back before one of the World Wars -- first or second, I cannot remember -- were far more cosmopolitan and flavourful, and that modern (boiled and bland) Brit cuisine was an invention of the war effort, though I've never checked into that so I can't attest to the veracity.

I do know that it was, for me, around the age of 25 or 26, in Montreal, mainly (though there were exceptions) among non-Brit backgrounded friends, that I gained an appreciation of good food. Specifically, from Francophone friends (including that commenter above, the fine Mr. Jean-Louis), and a Chinese-Canadian with what was then a stunning appreciation of good food.

But living in Korea has driven home that people who appreciate food needn't appreciate fine food only: food is an extremely common topic of discussion in Korea -- you hear people talking about it all the time as they pass on the street -- but awful, shoddy, ratty restaurants turn a decent profit as long as their furnishings and decor are very nice. That I don't get. It baffles me.
07/14/05 03:02 AM

kat wrote:

Jean-Louis - yes, but you guys are French (and possibly not part of North America. There seems to be some confusion over that). The French were never guilty of boiling perfectly good steaks, war or no war. They've got taste.

And good cheese. Dammit, Montreal is too far away!

Gord - I think the decor is one of those marketing things. You take your date (or anyone else you want to impress) to a nice restaurant... which, since you can't be sure their taste matches yours, means a nice-looking restaurant. You're a stranger in town? You go to the nice-looking restaurant. You think highly of yourself, so you choose a restaurant that looks nice... it's a bit like girls who wear high heels and short skirts even though it's winter and they're going to get frostbite in unmentionable places. It's the appearances that count.

Me, I wear long johns and eat where the food's good, but hey. *grin*
07/14/05 08:25 AM

Jean-Louis wrote:

Too far away! This from someone living near Toronto, and with the ambition of someday moving to Vancouver?

Oh, and I have to take offense at being called French and not a part of North America. We were here as early as you Americans, we explored this continent, and we're at least as different from our European cousins as you are from yours.

PS. Don't get me started on Lewis & Clark
07/18/05 08:19 AM

kat wrote:

Hey, "too far" is a state of mind. Particularly when your car has just had a Bad Moment. *grin* And you must admit it's a tad far to drive just to pick up good cheese.

Though I do wanna visit Montreal some day.

And the North America thing was more my half-joking, half-bewildered crack at whether Quebec really wants to secede or not. I keep getting all kinds of answers, ranging from "No" to "We are not part of Canada! We are part of France!" I've pretty much given up on guessing what the Quebecois *really* want....
07/28/05 12:25 PM

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