My first attempt to bake baguette was a dismal and utter failure, leaving me scarred, scared and ashamed. Let me re-phrase that – my first five (or was it more like ten?) attempts produced something that looked like baguette, smelled like baguette, but were neither edible not palatable, not even capable of being sliced and best employed as cricket bats. I think if I had carved a hole at the top and woven a net through it I could have used them as badminton or even squash rackets. Needless to say, I felt defeated and refused to go near the concept again. Until this morning.
It’s been at least ten years since I last attempted to make baguette for fear of yet another failure and wasting all that flour and yeast. After fiddling with the recipe for a couple of months now, I held the messy dough in my hands this morning, lost in my thoughts of linseed and oat bran, when I decided to junk the regular breakfast rolls I normally make. Why not?
It’s been a year of losses, but also a year of major turning points, and when I pulled out the bread out of the oven I knew I had nailed it this time. Call it Christmas magic or FrogDiva tenacity, but it was such a satisfaction to hold this rustic artisan baguette bread in my hands. That sense of triumph that echoes all the way down to my bones, knowing that the crunch, the aroma, and the flavour were in the right place was incredibly liberating.
I find myself returning to Berlin to reconcile with old nemesis from my past, all difficult and turbulent journeys thus far, so I figured one more battle wouldn’t hurt. I’ve learned in the past three years that certain projects that I shelved indefinitely just need to be revisited with new knowledge, skills and perspectives, and in this case, a whole new recipe. That’s the beauty of being middle aged – you have acquired the right experiences along the way, no longer fear or regret the mistakes, have grown stubborn enough to keep on trying, and know that you still have the energy to keep trying another 200 times until you get right. Just because the first ten attempts were failures doesn’t mean that the 11th will be one as well. I replaced variety with variables and work with that. It is brilliant for writing, photography and bread making.
Leave no bread behind.
There is a word in German that I have come to appreciate this year – Abstand. The formal translation is distancing, and yes, it probably is the word of the year for 2020 but it is not just a physical distancing but also an emotional one. It’s about temporarily removing yourself from the toxic situation in order to re-assess and plan a new strategy. Sometimes your personal Abstand can take years before you can revisit the old chapter in order to finally close it. This is not just a matter of immunity, but more of emotional maturity to face old demons, your soul having been seasoned to withstand whatever is lurking in the shadows. This has been my golden thread for 2020 that has undoubtedly woven past and present together into an intricate and solid design in order to present it with pride and grace for the future. As this turbulent year comes to and end, I can finally bury the hatchet with the baguette and move on.