Meaningful Work

October 31, 2006 @ 11:27 am | Filed under: , ,

Musing about the "meaningful work" part of my Rule of Six, Jove writes:

By observing how [my daughter] has been participating in household work over the
past little while, I have come to see that when there is no list of
"chores", the work itself can become meaningful. It produces something
that the worker desires — tasty bread, a tidy environment, etc. It
also produces a feeling of fully belonging to the household. That pride
that she can empty the dishwasher is at least partly about
recognizing an additional way that she is able to contribute, even if
she doesn’t empty the dishwasher every time. And household tasks do not
just produce goods (bread, dinner, clean laundry) and services (dinner
served to the table, maid service), they also produce relationships.

Doing these things for others as a member of a household is a way of
tangibly caring for people.

(Emphasis mine.)

Jove, that is so beautifully put. Yes, yes, yes: household work cheerfully and reverently done builds warmth and cameraderie within the family. I use the word "reverently" deliberately; I really do mean it. If we approach tedious domestic tasks—or any task—with an attitude of reverence, a sense that this work, however mean, however mundane, can bless our loved ones (or even perfect strangers), the work itself is changed. Cleaning toilets need not be drudgery; it can be as loving an act as buying a gift for your spouse or reading a special book to a child.

There’s a lovely passage in Thyra Ferre Bjorn’s book, Papa’s Wife, in which Mama sits down to her favorite task of the week: polishing the shoes of her seven children. Seven pairs of shoes! Imagine! She spent all day each Saturday cleaning and scrubbing and baking and preparing her home for the Sabbath—"Papa" was a pastor—and at the end of that long, hard day, she had to face that pile of shoes. Except there was no "having to face" the task in her attitude. She took joy in the job. Each shoe called forth the image of the child who wore it, and as she worked, Mama would smile over the thought of a funny or endearing thing the child had done that week. (Last year, when I re-read this book for the dozenth time, I thought of Alice during the shoe-polishing scene—and months later, when I read her "Spring Soup" post, I thought of the warm-hearted Swedish mama.)

Jove’s post also describes her recent decision to begin baking bread with her daughter. She links to a recipe Wisteria uses daily. This is perfect timing for me. I’ve been hankering to bring breadmaking into our lives ever since Elizabeth shared her enthusiasm for the task on the CCM list years ago. All these years, I’ve been biding my time, which is to say, waiting for Jane to be old enough to be in charge of the job. And she IS old enough now. I have already promised her we’ll work more baking into our lives now that we’re sort of overhauling our daily rhythm.

I’d love your input on recipes for beginners, dear readers. I have to admit Wisteria’s recipe (which sounds wonderful) intimidated me a little with its use of the words "adjust accordingly." Jove DID adjust accordingly, and I’m mighty impressed. I can "adjust accordingly" with the best of them when it comes to, say, educational method and materials, but with baking? Not so much. I need the Baking for Dummies version.

And we can make do without a mixer and dough hook, right? For now? Since this is likely to be a once-a-week endeavor at best?

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10 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Shelly says:

    My mom made the rolls we ate with dinner each week and I wish I was as diligent. I do use her recipe whenever I make bread because it is easy and tasty. She once volunteered to bring the rolls for Thanksgiving to our 50 people family dinner and now it is her job every year. Once she couldn’t so I did it so that is probably what I will inherit for the dinner. This recipe is so easy and only has to raise in the bowl once the roll it out or if you want to make loaves shape it in the pan and let raise again before baking. Quick Butter Fluff Rolls Recipe”

  2. JoVE says:

    Thanks for the kind words.

    As for the bread, it is one of those things that you can be a bit slapdash about, I think. So for a normal bread pan, I start with one sachet of yeast (that’s about 2 teaspons. I then took 2/3 of Wisteria’s amount of water which comes to 1 1/3 cups (so just over a cup). A large glug of molasses or honey or whatever (or measure out 2 tablespoons). The thing is that the flour is however much it takes to make the right consistency. So start with a couple of cups (one white, one whole wheat, for example) and mix. then add more until it’s right.

    Tigger is 9 (if that helps with the age thing) and we do it all by hand. Quite a bit of the flour can be incorporated by kneading. So can the oil, I discovered one day when we had forgot it. I made a tablespoon size dip in the dough, poured in the oil, folded the dough over and she kept kneading. We did that again (since 2/3 of 3 tablespoons is 2 tbsp).

    The first batch we made didn’t seem to rise (the best before date was WAY old), but we continued on and it seemed to rise while baking. Maybe it was as much that my house was cold (no filters for the furnace; this is Canada, we should have had the heat on).

    So I encourage you and Jane to try. As for other kid’s cookbooks we have:

    Easy Peasy (Mary Contini and Pru Irvine) which is great.

    Honest Pretzels (Molly Katzen; think Moosewood cookbooks)

    and Roald Dahls Even More Revolting Recipes (particularly suited the children’s lit crowd, I think; and published by Jonathan Cape if you are having trouble finding it)

    for baking, I think Good Housekeeping is probably the way to go. For a level of detail some would find annoying Delia Smith is probably what you need (if you like British cooks)

  3. lisa says:

    Mollie Katzen has a beginning cookbook called Honest Pretzels that is normally at the library. This might be a good place to start. I also like the Williams and Sonoma Kid’s cookbook. Good luck!

  4. J says:

    If it doesn’t HAVE to be from scratch–Jiffy Pizza Dough in a Pyrex bowl with a wooden spoon is the easiest way to go–for me at least.

  5. Lisa says:

    Of course, You know I vote for the Beer Breads!(Bountiful and Savory Wheat versions)One beer, one mix, one wooden spoon, one hour to bake!

  6. Cay in La. says:

    I read about the Beer Bread too in a “Chicken Soup for the Soul Cookbook”. Supposedly it’s an easy, no-fail recipe.

    Danielle Bean makes it too. Here’s her recipe:

  7. Becky says:

    I love Thyra Ferre Bjorn’s books (I pull them all out every year once the cold weather starts and begin rereading them) — I knew you were a kindred spirit, Lissa :).

    Of course without dough hooks etc. Think of Ma and Marilla lol. Just one word of advice — find a recipe that makes several loaves at once, otherwise the bread will be all gobbled up shortly after exiting the oven…

    I have a few kids’ recipe books (Fannie Farmer Junior Cookbook, Kids’ Holiday Baking Book) but I think a general cookbook like the regular Fannie Farmer cookbook is just fine, and so does my eldest (9yo), who just started in the new 4H Baking Club and is having a dandy time (last month — cookies, this month — cake, timed perfectly for youngest brother’s birthday, almost as if the leader knew lol). Will check my recipes for something easy…

  8. Tracy says:

    La Leche League’s Whole Foods for the Whole Family has a wonderful section on baking bread. In addition to many recipes, it has a great tutorial to explain the basics to beginners.

  9. Alice says:

    Thank you for the reminder that mundane tasks should be approached with reverence. I will apply it to my day tomorrow!

  10. Anonymous says:

    I think yeasted breads are one of those things you can’t really get away from having to adjust, since temperature and humidity make a big difference.

    Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book has a really good and detailed beginner’s explaination, though.