Well, the blog’s been a little barren lately. I’ve been finding it harder and harder to convince myself to – after logging a full day face-to-face with my trusty MacBook Air – sit back down in front of the screen and write. Yes, I admit that the same person who once wrote this is now having some difficulty finding time for social media. And I’m OK with that. I love my gadgets, but I’m well aware that I spend too much time with them. I’ve been making a conscious effort to find hobbies that take me away from sitting on my butt in front of yet another screen.
I’ve written about my recent dedication to running, but lately, my evening hours have been taken up with a newfound interest in…baking. Yes, baking. It all started one night a few months ago, sitting at home, kids in bed, my wife at work, and I had the following conversation with myself:
Me: “I’m hungry.”
Myself: “Me, too. I could go for a scone.”
Me: “Someone should start a scone delivery service.”
Myself: “We could make scones.”
Me: “Pfft. We have no idea how to do that. We barely make toast.”
Myself: “Oh, c’mon, it can’t be that hard. I’ve seen some of the people who make scones…”
Me: “Hmmm…let me google ‘make scones’ and see if we have the ingredients…”
I did, made what you see on the left, and just kept going from there. Scones, biscotti, bagels – I tinkered around with all of these, but quickly found I got the most enjoyment out of making bread. And not just the occasional loaf of bread, either, but making it on a routine basis to the point where we haven’t bought a loaf of bread in almost a month (and my two kids have sandwiches for lunch on a daily basis). There’s something pleasantly satisfying about being able to produce something that the entire family enjoys and uses on a routine basis.
One aspect of bread-making that surprised me – but may be what I appreciate most about the experience – is the physical nature of it. It takes effort and exertion to make a good loaf of bread. Kneading bread dough for 10 minutes is much more physically taxing than I ever realized. This was brought to my attention by my dear wife who, upon hearing me complaining about how flat my recently baked loaf of bread was, informed me that I wasn’t kneading my dough hard enough or long enough. After sputtering out a few exasperated excuses, I finally blurted, “I just don’t see the point of it!” To which she pointed to my too-flat bread. Point made. I’ve since upped the physical ante by refusing to use a mixer (wooden spoon only!) and getting a hand-crank grain mill to grind my whole wheat grain. Baking a loaf of whole wheat bread has now become a full-body workout for me.
Last week, I tried a recipe for a French bread called Pain Ordinaire Careme (pictured left), and it was amazing, easily the best thing I’ve baked. What I found so amazing wasn’t the taste (which was quite good, if I do say so myself…), but the process of making it. It only had four ingredients: flour, water, yeast, salt. It doesn’t get more basic than that. But, two additional elements were necessary in order to turn these four simple ingredients into a fantastic loaf of bread: time and care. It takes two days to make. The ingredients need to be combined in proper sequence, specifically the salt, which is added at a precise time during mixing. The dough must go through a triple-rising process which takes over six hours, yet is crucial for giving the bread its proper texture. Too little time, and the bread is dense and flat. Too much time, and it becomes too light and airy.
Simple ingredients, given adequate time and care, can produce a beautiful and complex product. This theme of simplicity is one I hope to carry over to other aspects of my life. I love trying out new learning tools and technologies and brainstorming ways to implement them into educational programs. The goal is to improve the learner experience, but I worry that sometimes in our quest to implement the latest “bright shiny object”, we end up only muddying the waters for those that matter most. By no means am I trying to imply that we should avoid using new technologies in our continuing education activities. Rather, I am suggesting that we give greater consideration to how crucial each element of our activities is to the learner experience and eliminate those pieces that are not essential. Let’s reconsider the “kitchen sink” approach to CME. Some of the best learning moments of my life have come from well-delivered lectures and carefully written articles, simply done, with proper time and care dedicated to their creation. Sometimes, those are the only ingredients you need…