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Note: this blog is a follow-up to the one below about making hand-kneaded bread.
During my teens and twenties, I was a healthy, rational person who lived in harmony with the universe. My neighbors declare going off to college was my undoing, but I trace the decline to being too busy to bake bread. When I took time for the slow process of concocting a loaf of bread with my own hands, I benefitted mentally and physically; in a few hours, I gain both calisthenics and psychological help.
Nearly everyone knows by now that bread made with whole meal flours is more nourishing than a pale loaf mass-produced for supermarket sale. Eating the cheapest white loaf is like eating cotton candy: your stomach feels a little queasy, and you're hungry ten minutes later.
Several friends fed me homemade bread. I'm not complaining; it's delicious, bearing no resemblance to the stuff labeled "bread" in the average supermarket.
But they are all busy women: several run their own business, have a husband and at least one child to entertain, feed, and clothe; a house to clean; cats, dogs, and cars to fuel. After the third friendly meal where guests cut thick slices of bread from a loaf enshrined in the center of the table, I behaved like a writer and investigated. Shrewdly, I asked questions like, "Did you make this bread?" I watched my hostess alertly, expecting her to blush and admit she bought it. After prying the location out of her, I planned to buy some myself and tell guests I made it, assuming she'd done the same.
The truth was a greater bombshell. These workaholic super-mothers all own a machine that makes bread. They seemed anxious to talk about it; to "share" it with me, as they put it.
It's simple, they announced blithely. Dump in the ingredients and hit a few buttons; the machine mixes the dough and forms a loaf, then bakes it. Several hours later, the smiling hostess explained, while I listened in horror, she opens the marvelous machine just in time for the arrival of whoever she wants to impress. One woman reported gleefully, "It even kneads it for you."
"That explains it," I said sagely, rolling a piece of bread into a bullet in my fingers and firing it into the air. Super Mom heard the thump when it hit her spotless floor and scrambled to pick it up.
I now live with a man who got a bread machine for Christmas one year. I use it every week; each time I reach for my Grandmother's mixing bowl to make bread the old-fashioned way, my mind reminds me of a dozen jobs I should do and I take the machine off the shelf instead. But I mourn what I am losing.
Bread machines might be a boon to anyone deficient in upper arm strength, such as mothers and grandmothers who have baked bread for years. But anyone who uses a bread machine is missing half the reason for homemade bread. Modern homemakers of either sex have time-consuming obligations; machine-made bread is tasty.
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written 1994; published on the Windbreak House website 2011.
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