Saturday, 21 June 2014

'Cakes of Bread' by Helen Moat

Sieve the flour with the salt and cream of tartar into the beige mixing bowl – the one with the diamond pattern and the chip on the lip. Open the window to the soporific coo of the garden pigeons. Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in the buttermilk. Breathe in its sour smell before mixing to a soft dough. Rub the flour off your face with the back of your hand. Feel the landscape of your skin change over time.

Fetch the old Formica board that is curling up at the corners, the one that always has a few hardened lumps of dough left from the last baking session. Sprinkle flour onto the board and knead the dough with light fingers. Stop to brush away the wisps of hair that have escaped your Brethern Roll.

Gently shape the dough into a half inch circle with the palms of your hands. Using the breadknife – the one with the faded yellow handle – cut the dough into four farls. Now fetch the griddle, being careful not to trip on the uneven tiles under its heavy weight. Lightly flour its surface.

Bake the soda farls for about five minutes both sides, then stand them on their ends like pyramids. Cut open one of the farls while it is still hot, and smear with salted butter. Now close your eyes: feel the crispy crunch of charred crust on your tongue; taste the soft doughy centre with the warm melted butter.

Reach down and give your daughter a slice. She is waiting. Savour this moment because one day your fingers will no longer be nimble, your legs weak, your balance gone, your baking days over, your daughter across an ocean.

Freeze the slice in time.

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