Boules of Bread and New Cars
"The art of bread making can become a consuming hobby, and no matter how often and how many kinds of bread one has made, there always seems to be something new to learn."
~ Julia Child
Two days before Christmas, I went to my favorite bakery to buy an artisan loaf of bread for my Christmas dinner of prime rib (15.4 lbs with). Instead of coming home with a whole grain round loaf (or boule) studded with cranberries, walnuts, and white chocolate bits, I returned empty-handed. This was a culinary "tragedy," as no meal is complete (for me) without bread. As a child, bread was my favorite food, and it remains so today. Not just any bread—exquisite bread!
Dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls, pies, and cakes are the baked goods I most often prepare. However, I had never attempted an artisan loaf of bread—the kind with a hard, chewy crust that makes a hollow sound when tapped, yet possesses a tender, light, airy crumb. On Christmas Eve, after watching several YouTube videos and following a simple recipe for a plain white-flour boule, I swapped out a bit of white flour for whole wheat, increased the water slightly, and, post kneading, added a small number of chopped dates, pecan pieces, and white chocolate chips.
I did not have a baking cloche, but I did have a cooking stone, which I used. The bread looked and smelled wonderful when I removed it from the oven. Later that day, I found a recipe for 50% whole wheat and made another boule, without the fancy additions. Both boules were a hit at my Christmas day dinner.
Now I was hooked on this bread making—so very simple it was! I looked online for baking cloches to “up” my bread game, but I wasn’t ready to spend $170 for the one I wanted. A woman from Malaysia blogged that she used 8” cake pans to form a “cloche.” I tried it, and voilà—perfection.
Now for the connection to my new car purchase. But first, a bit of background...
My husband bought a used car thirteen years ago. It was not a car that I wanted—neither make nor model. My father had called it a Mafia car, and my sister called it a boat. This vehicle was christened “my” car rather than my husband’s car. I referred to "my" car (privately, of course) as an exercise in humility and submission.
About two weeks ago, too many different lights were flashing on the warning panel (again), the car was not accelerating dependably, and there was a slight smell of smoke. I gave my Tennessee-bred husband the car keys and said, “I no longer feel safe driving ‘my’ car; I will be driving your truck from now on." Now, my husband did not want me driving his truck. The timing for my car to "act up" was horrible as my husband was sick with a nasty upper respiratory infection. He couldn't run outside and try "mouth-to-mouth" recessitation on "my" car as per usual.
My driving "his" truck initiated gentle but serious discussions about a replacement car for me. These discussions had been ongoing for years—so they weren’t exactly new. But this time, I was allowed to select the make but not the model. Progress, indeed! I researched prices and eventually found two perfect new cars. However, the one I preferred was several thousand dollars more than it's twin. I never haggle over prices—just not in my nature—although my husband considers it great sport.
At my daughter's urging, I emailed the salesman at the dealership with the higher priced vehicle the offer for the less expensive car. To my surprise, the dealership matched the lower price for the less expensive vehicle and they sold it to me at a loss. The salesman (that I spent the most time with), the finance manager, and the sales manager all were involved in making the deal happen.
Over the next two days, I brought warm boules of bread into the dealership, the enticing aroma drawing every salesman (yes, they were all men), not with a customer, to my assistance. I delivered each of three boules with the same message, “I hope this makes up for some of the ‘bread’ you lost.”
The salesman texted me his appreciation and compliments on the bread's fine gastronomic attributes. “How did you cut it?” I texted back, assuming bread knives were in short supply at the dealership. “I tore it open with my hands,” he texted back. Then he sent me a picture of the tiny corner that was left, saying that others had to have a bite.
Whether writing a novel or baking bread, nothing is quite as satisfying as knowing that one’s efforts are enjoyed!
Caption: Remaining corner after the "my" car salesman performs surgery (the bare-handed, tearing, and squeezing approach) on the date, pecan, and white chocolate boule without a proper bread knife, to the detriment of the crumb.
Denise-Marie Martin is the author of Tangled Violets: A Novel of Redemption.