Friday, March 6, 2009

Stuff of life

"Bread" and "dough" are the stuff of life in more ways than one. We eat one, our society runs on the other. That both are critical to our well-being speaks volumes about the metaphorical power of leavened dough.

We make our own bread, mostly. It's not to save money, though we do: each loaf costs us around 1.5 euros, including the electricity to run the bread machine. Now, while 1.5 euros can buy you a decent loaf of fluffy stuff, odds are it won't have the delicious little yummies I usually add to our loaves, things like olive oil and flaxseeds.

We make a lot of things ourselves: my boyfriend is brewing his own mead, and in the summer, I'll pick blackberries so we can have blackberry wine. Our laundry detergent is homemade--but only because neither of us can understand the sense in paying a company extra money to leave out perfumes and coloring, which I'm allergic to. I make our own tomato sauce. He makes our jams and jellies. I make clothes (mostly mine, but I finally have a pattern for a man's shirt, so we'll have to see how that goes), he makes furniture.

Doing these things doesn't necessarily save us a lot of dough, though we usually do come out ahead, especially when blackberries are involved (I will never understand how a nation reputed to be as stingy as the Dutch pass up free fruit). It's questionable whether it's worth the money to make a perfectly-fitted pair of pants, when you can find a reasonably good pair for 15 euros, though. We do them because we enjoy crafting things--the process of bringing an idea into fruition is a rather addictive one. One begins to understand why God was not content to stop with creating the heavens.

I would argue that the stuff of life is not the bread itself, but the process of creating the bread. You can call it "mindfulness" or "engagement" or whatever New-Agey term tosses your cookie, but the fact is, when you make stuff, you can't just sit back and expect it to happen the way you do when you consume stuff. I.e., consider Starbucks, the penultimate symbol of consumerism gone rampant. You go to Starbucks, pay your money, and a frappumochacinolatte is set in front of you to guzzle. You don't know (and probably don't want to know) how it's made, what goes into it, whether you can make it better. You just enjoy it. Kind of.

Making your own things, be it food or clothing or other consumables, forces you to become aware of the processes involved in the creation of said thing. You know what went into your brownies, you know how they're made, and you can think on how to improve the flavor (a little Armagnac goes a long way in chocolates). You become involved, and when you finally get to enjoy it, you really enjoy it.

Living = being involved in life.

No comments: