Yeast Are Never Depressed

Jim Lahey's Bread

I am depressed.

I can’t choke it down any longer. Like a fat birthday boy demanding the largest chunk of cake by moving his hands farther and farther apart, my depression has eyed me, every day wanting a bigger and bigger piece. This morning it took all of me.

Maybe I’m still sick with the flu, I think when I awake. It’s possible. I’ve been pummeled for more than 12 days with it. That could be the reason. I consider calling my assistant, Annie, and telling her not to come to work. Annie is cheerful. Sometimes relentlessly cheerful. I want to murder relentlessly cheerful people when I’m depressed. But I flutter the idea out of my mind. Isolation is the worst thing, I’ve learned from a lifetime of experience. Then I remember the bread dough that has been rising on my counter for almost 20 hours. I’m happy until I walk to the bathroom and forget I’m happy. Read more »

Embroidery Maker in Madeira

Lace Maker

I’ve been haunted by this picture since I took it a few weeks ago while in Madeira, Portugal. It’s of an embroidery pattern artisan. The boxes behind her extend far beyond what I was able to capture in this photo. We were literally surrounded by them. In each box were countless patterns—most far, far older than me. What makes this image so stirring is that the patterns are made of the thinnest tissue paper imaginable–whispery and ghost-like. I was reminded while standing there of the soft, crepe-thin skin of my grandmother’s hands, the near transparency of them, and how I could see the delicate bones and trace the fretwork of veins beneath. Read more »

The Mistress of Portugal’s Alentejo

Ilda Vinagre

Ilda’s version of the Sword and the Rose

The town of Terrugem, in Portugal’s vast Alentejo region, hangs from highway A-6 like a comma, so small it seldom pauses traffic. One cloudless afternoon several years ago, I was the only driver to slow and turn to enter the village’s surprisingly grand gates. My passenger was then-52-year-old Ilda Vinagre, one of the only female chefs in Portugal to have earned Michelin stars. She had never gotten around to getting her driver’s license, so every day she relied upon the kindness of friends—or, in my case, a stranger—for a lift. I was playing chauffeur because, according to Ilda, the only way I could get to know her was the Portuguese way: to be a guest in her home. And, as I quickly found out, “no” was not an acceptable answer. Read more »

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