A lifelong love of baking, a summer working in the camp kitchen and connecting all of those life skills with developing positive mental health strategies.
Tori’s guest blog this week is an excerpt from her descriptive essay about the joys and benefits of making bagels from scratch.
When I first tasted a bagel I was genuinely confused as to how people enjoy consuming them. It tastes like a stale piece of bread topped with some expired, whole milk. Their value to this earth and to cultures doesn’t make much sense. They’re not particularly high in vitamins, they taste like cardboard, and are difficult to make. Okay, maybe I judged them too harshly too fast. I let my opinion of one bad bagel escalate into a future of bagel negativity. Once I finally allowed myself to coexist neutrally with the bagel, my perspective changed. Approaching bagels from a different angle made all the difference. The satisfaction of kneading dough, testing herbs, and creating life from scratch lured me in. Watching the dry yeast bubble in excitement while preparing a collection of herbs and flavours makes me feel at home. I can feel the anticipation building up by the time the dough just barely starts to form together. Getting to knead it and let all of my energy out from throughout the week is like my version of a “runners high.” Its relieving nature helps me to expel excess anger and emotion. I think that it’s probably best that I let it out on the dough, rather than on something or someone else. It’s also not like a bad anger, it’s more of an energized one. One that drives self motivation rather than self discipline. By the time I take the bagels out of the oven and bite into their crisp, golden exterior, all of that built up emotion dissipates. I feel calm, refreshed, and relaxed. There is nothing more satisfying than making a bagel, completely from scratch.
While in the kneading step of the bagel making process, I enjoy experimenting using flavors and herbs. Of course topping a bagel with everything seasoning, or cheese smells amazing by itself, but incorporating herbs takes it to a whole different level. Just for the aromatic aspect, my favourite go-to flavor combination is rosemary and garlic. Not the rosemary you get at the grocery store dried, and not the minced garlic you find in a jar, but the fresh sprigs and full cloves found organically in nature. My favourite part about seasoning breads and focaccias is the trip to my fresh herb garden. Living in Maine does mean that all my herbs are indoors, but I still like to imagine them prospering in their natural biome. Also, the word ‘trip’ might be a bit too generous of a noun. It’s more of a change of rooms carrying my harvesting tools. As I approach my herb collection, I get reminded of all the culinary flavour possibilities that I have yet to develop. Gently peeling individual sprigs off of the base of my plant, its aromatic nature fills my senses with joy. It’s also very joy provoking knowing that harvesting my herbs only encourages new, more quantiful growth. I continue plucking off rosemary sprigs, usually way more than I need, just so I can let my nose take up all of the aroma it possibly can. Then, I scurry over to my other herbs, chopping them carefully with my herb scissors. Another flavour combination I enjoy is chive and herbed goat cheese. I get great satisfaction using my multi-blade scissors to efficiently cut up my chives, without bruising them.
The feeling of engaging all my senses is so grounding for me. To be able to focus on one sensory stimulation at a time helps me connect with the here and now. It soothes all of the tension being built up in my mind. Somehow, the whole process of not only making bagels, but eating them too, is reassuring to my brain.It helps me feel more satisfied when everything is not completely perfect or equivalent. Having a blob of sticky flour and water turn into an insanely smooth, pliable edible delight is beyond fascinating. It confuses me how a combination of ingredients, heat, and time can evolve into something so different. Well I guess that’s the science and practiced patience of baking. A learning experience that turns the ordinary into something magnificent and unique while adding a touch of personalization.
By Tori B-J aged 16