There are few things in this world that smell as good as freshly baked bread. It’s a scent I’m quite familiar with, due to a childhood filled with measuring, stirring, sneaking illicit peeks into the dishcloth-shrouded bowl to check the rising dough, over-enthusiastic kneading, and agonizing over the wait for dough to transform into a glorious, crusty, golden brown loaf.
I was raised on that heavenly aroma, the near physical sensation of it sliding tantalizingly over my skin; the crack of our old, wooden-handled, serrated knife sinking into a loaf; the moment of contact between my tongue and a generous slice of warm, butter-coated bread.
The baking and breaking of bread in my home is as common as washing our clothes or doing our homework – a quotidian occurrence. And yet there is something unarguably unique about it. No other food is the same: warm, filling, flavorful, simple, reliable, honest.
Despite its simplicity, bread is a food capable of catapulting every member of my family into a frenzy of excitement and good cheer each time its scent wafts our way. I can say with confidence that 50 years from now, I will still be able to close my eyes and be transported instantly to the cheery yellow kitchen of my childhood home, filled with the perfume of freshly baked bread.
Most of the things in our kitchen are yellow – appropriate, considering the color scheme of bread. Throughout its creation process, it changes several times from floury white to buttery yellow to a golden bronze.
Waiting for the dough to rise is an almost unbearable part of the process. It takes a few hours, and it’s considered a sin to peek under the cloth that has been laid protectively over the bowl. As a small girl, I found it impossible to resist that temptation. And once I lifted the cloth, I found it equally impossible to quell the urge to lean close to the bowl for a speedy inhalation. The unmistakable scent of yeast was starting to build. But it wouldn’t begin to diffuse throughout the room until the dough reached the oven. That moment is truly magical.
As the room warms from the heat of the oven and the fragrance of pure goodness begins to fill the space, family members congregate, each following his or her nose to the mouthwatering scent. We gather around the oven and peer over the shoulders of whomever is responsible for removing the pan. We listen as they knock on the bread’s crusty exterior, appreciating the hollow sound that signifies the bread has been perfectly baked.
The most delicious thing about this scene is, surprisingly, not the food. It’s the people, and the love that binds us together: love of good food, love of good times, and ultimately, love of each other. This bond is another example of an everyday experience. But just like with the breaking of bread, you often find that it’s the everyday experiences that are the most magical.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.