M/Bake Yourself

People say that baking is scientific, but I don’t think that’s an accurate way to describe baking bread. Baking bread is improvisatory, in that it requires knowing the process well enough to be able to respond when circumstances change.

The state of your starter, the temperature outdoors and in, the time you have available, and other such variables set certain parameters within which to work. You can guess and do alright, but to really consistently perform the way you want to, you have to have practiced enough times so that your muscle memory and intuition can take over. How the dough looks, smells, and feels will tell you if it needs to ferment for a few more hours, or if you need to change the ambient temperature. Even though the process is a continuous, daily practice, it’s never quite the same from time to time.

One of the most significant reasons why I am attracted to activities like this is that they are impossible to do without developing a sustained relationship with the process. There is a kind of intimacy between one’s instrument and one’s self, where, after you’ve spent enough time with each other, you know what it is going to do before you hear it done (and it knows what you are going to do, as well). This is one of the places where our membranes as subjects is the thinnest, when we are most prepared to let things in, to blur the distinction between ourselves and the outside world, which is inside us as we are in it. People can cause this boundary crossing (is there really a boundary?), but so can objects: when you are playing music, you are yourself but also your instrument (as it, by sounding is partially you).

There is no such thing as a single unitary individual; we are incomprehensibly multiple, but there are at least some parts of us that we can know about and reflect on. Choosing what objects to use and what activities to perform with them–very much like choosing which people we spend time with–is a way to intentionally alter some of the multiples that constitute us as humans in the world. Even as I work on my future self by learning how to bake, I am partially becoming my past self each time I eat what I have baked and am made to remember this or that event, or any number of conversations where bread was present, tying itself to my mind.

Allowing other people to experience this as well is one reason to bake two loaves.

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