Who am I?
I never know how to answer that question. I had a brainstem stroke in 2006. The person I was died; I’m still trying to figure out the “new” me. Oddly enough, if one ignores the physical disabilities, I like the “new” me much better than the old me. I’m enjoying my “second childhood” immensely now. Since I have very little short term memory everything is new to me every day. As long as I don’t worry about little things like survival, and trust my caretakers (mostly my husband) to take care of me, it really is a “second childhood.” This time around “childhood” is almost idyllic.
I’m both shy and introverted: it’s very hard for me to interact with other people. Fortunately I live in the middle of nowhere with my husband and dogs. Our nearest neighbor lives a quarter mile away, on the other side of a rather large hill. Our land is completely surrounded by huge fields of corn, soybeans, or hay. When we moved out here, almost 40 years ago, we raised a few pigs. Each year we got a couple of cows (aptly named “Hamburger” and “Steak”) but we never really farmed. More than half our land is heavily wooded. The tillable land is rented out to help pay taxes.
In many ways, where I live defines who I am. It’s not unusual for me to go several months without seeing another human other than my husband. My “friends” are all people I’ve never met face to face, even though I’ve known some of them 30 years or more. (I guess I was a little introverted even before my stroke…) I really love our land, with it’s huge trees and wild critters. Over the years we’ve encouraged plants that are native to our area. Such plants take care of themselves and attract all kinds of wildlife. I’ve rescued and raised everything from raccoons to squirrels. I’ve held hummingbirds in my hand and taught a wild raven to talk. So now, when I can’t go outside easily or walk very far, I spend my time watching the world outside my window and I don’t feel deprived. There is always something to watch from birds to coyotes, and white tailed deer — even wolves. One day there might be a grumpy opossum eating pears in our pear tree, and the next day the hummingbirds are flocking our feeders before going south for the winter. Thanks to my lack of short term memory, everything that happens outside my window is new and exciting every day. I play on my computer. I read. I write. And, recently, I have been attempting to get back to baking bread.
In the dim distant past I made bread two or three times a week. I had a colony of wild yeasts and bacteria (“sourdough starter”) that made some very unique and wonderful bread. I had kept the same colony for more than 10 years when I had a brainstem stoke. Then … BAM! … Everything was gone except a clean, sterile crock labeled “Sourdough Starter” and a bunch of pots and pans in the basement.
That was in 2006.. In the spring of 2015 my bowel started acting up again. I’ve had a difficult gut since the day I was born. My father used to say, “You were born with colic and never got over it.” And that describes it very well. It’s not an allergy to gluten or wheat, though the symptoms are very like people describe when they talk about their need for a gluten-free diet. It makes me wonder how many of them have actually been tested by an allergist as opposed to just going off bread and deciding they feel better… I think the “gluten free” fad is often a problem with the monoculture yeasts used in cooking today. For me, when my gut acts up, I *want* homemade bread made with wild yeasts! The bread from the grocery store makes me sicker. Homemade bread made with SAF yeast is slightly better. But “sourdough” bread, bread made entirely with wild yeasts — THAT helps immensely! “Sourdough” bread, just like other things made with cultures of wild yeast (yogurt, wine, and natural cheese), is one of my favorite comfort foods.
In no way am I a professional baker: I like the adventure of baking bread with wild yeasts. I love deciding what to put into the bread. It’s a challenge for me to stir the dough. It’s much easier to mix dough with my fingers. I love the feel of bread dough when I knead. Bread smells fantastic when it’s baking. Usually eating the bread is a pleasure.
Omar Khayyam got it right: “A loaf of bread, a hunk of cheese, a bottle of wine, and Thou.”
((If you want to contact me, my email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org Please put the words “Old Dough” as the subject.))