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by Fausto Angotti May 09, 2018
After a long, tiring week at work, I eagerly look forward to the weekend when I get to spend some quality time with my with my 4-year-old daughter, Sofia. Any working parent knows how valuable the moments are that you get to spend with your children when work-life limits the amount of time the family can be together.
So, this past weekend, Sofia and I took part in one of our favorite activities which is making bread together. Making bread is one of the things I love to do most...especially sourdough bread. As with many things in life, what once was a weekly ritual slowly becomes more infrequent as life keeps us busy. However, now that my baby girl is a toddler, I have noticed that I find myself doing all those things that I loved to do but did not have the time for. Not only do I receive great enjoyment from it, but it is important for me to pass on those traditions to Sofia and to create memories for her to enjoy for the rest of her life.
So...this was the day for Sofia and I to make our sourdough bread. As anyone with children knows, it can be a struggle to keep a toddler's interest in any one activity for longer than 5 minutes. If I don't plan things just right, it won't be long until she gets antsy and wants to play a game or watch ‘net-tube’, as she so adorably calls it.
So off we set on our sourdough bread. We go through all the motions and the enticement builds that she will get to do all the things that Daddy taught here. The chair gets pulled up to the counter, the scene gets set with all our necessary instruments and supplies and we each get appropriately dusted with flour….enough to make sure all can see how hard we have been working but not so much that it looks like we were just goofing off.
Once the dough is mixed and Sofia has had her fill of stretching, poking, punching and playing, she has reached her limit and is ready to hang up her apron. The little, sticky hands get washed and off she goes to play as the baton gets handed to Daddy for the remaining minor details. Of course, she still does not know all the work that goes into making the bread, or the days of preparation to make the sourdough starter, or all the cleanup needed after cooking with a toddler. However, that is okay and it will come with time. After a few hours have passed, the dough is properly risen, shaped and baked. We fill our bellies with fresh sourdough bread that is still too hot to eat but not hot enough to stop trying.
Later that evening, I was looking back on the day and felt a great sense of satisfaction from our bread making experience. Of course she finds it fun which brings me joy to watch. However, I am also filled with a sense of accomplishment that I have fulfilled one of my responsibilities as a parent. I was able do my part in passing on this family tradition. However, after thinking about it some more, I started realizing all the other important reasons for, and rewards from, making bread with my little girl. Yes, I am passing on a family tradition...but there are probably more reasons important reasons and benefits than we can understand.
Throughout the process, she is not only learning about how to make bread, but she is learning how to operate around the kitchen, how to be neat and organized, how to setup a work station and how to cook while having fun.
Additionally, the simple process of making bread is very symbolic of the ability to feed and provide for yourself. It is important for me to make sure that Sofia learns how to be self-sufficient and provide for herself. Not only in the context of cooking, but in all aspects of life from earning a living to fixing gadgets around the house to just being resourceful. The act of making bread symbolizes the concept of self-reliance to me and, hopefully, Sofia will translate this skill in various ways in her own life.
I also realize the importance of creating memories for my daughter to enjoy and share as she gets older. When the day comes that I am no longer around, these are the moments that I want her to remember. I am reminded of the fact that it is my responsibility to create these memories and only I have the power to shape the memories that I want my daughter to hold.
It occurs to me how important it is for her to simply be present while I make bread so that the aroma of freshly baked bread fills her senses and becomes etched in her mind. It is known how powerful the sense of smell is and how it can evoke such vivid memories. It makes me happy to know that, when my little girl grows up, the taste and aroma of fresh bread will spark the fond memories of making bread together with her Daddy. This somehow gives me a feeling of peace that I can live eternally as a fond memory for Sofia or stories that get told to her children.
This, of course, makes me think of my parents and cooking with them as a child. It was 35 years earlier that I was alongside my father making pizza dough in our deli. Now my father gets to watch his granddaughter and I make bread together and is filled with great joy for being able to witness these family traditions get passed along. It provides him with a sense of accomplishment that he successfully fulfilled his responsibilities as a parent by keeping these traditions alive.
After all this existential thought about what it means to be a parent, our responsibilities in life and what is true happiness, I look at the half-eaten loaf of bread riddled with holes from little hands which have stolen little pieces from the middle. It will slowly become stale and enjoyed over the following days until only crumbs remain. We will do it all over again a week or two later as the cycle repeats itself.
Each time, we set out to make a loaf of bread together. We prepare our ingredients, mix, rise, shape, bake, eat, clean and repeat again and again. I love that every time I make bread with my little girl, I always come with such a sense of happiness, accomplishment and purpose in life. I am always so grateful to be reminded that happiness, knowledge and wisdom can be found in the seemingly simple, mundane experiences in our lives. Above all else, I suppose that is the ultimate lesson in this exercise and I hope that Sofia may discover that for herself someday.
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by Fausto Angotti May 10, 2018