Some folks like to have their fingers in dirt, feeling the life-giving earth under their hands. Their thumbs are the green of thriving flora. Take my father for example. Even in the mountains of north-western Virginia, he always has a ripe tomato by the end of June. What he perhaps lacks in landscape design, he makes up for in a proliferation of color and richly healthy plants of all types. From my mom’s rose bushes and bulbs, to his trees and garden, everything thrives. Just the cedars in his immense backyard alone are lush and house multiple species of bird, while also sheltering generation after generation of rabbits and deer.
Me? Umm, no. That’s not to say that I have a black thumb necessarily – it’s more a sickly green. And forget giving me anything in a pot. It is doomed for a slow and painful death. The guilt eats me up, but I’ve accepted the reality. I’m more like my mother. One year, after some lovely plant her sister gave her started its slow, hopeless decline, she dumped it upside down in the backyard and promptly forgot about it. The following spring it came up and was a showy, glorious plant all summer long. That’s more like my gardening style.
What brings me my bliss is to have my fingers in dough. Live yeast is my connection with the earth and the interplay between flour, water, yeast and salt – well, that’s where I thrive. My recent obsession with sourdough has brought me to a whole new level of appreciation for the wild yeasts and bacteria with whom we share our world. As I squish, fold, and shape, my dough-coated fingers feel a kinship with my ancestors. And compared to waiting for a seed to become a flowering or edible plant, I’m all about the more instant gratification of a delicious, fragrant loaf before the day is done.