Back in the old days, two months ago, I used to joke about our 19th century skills. Both Adam and I have them, and have cultivated them. In this current crisis, the 19th & 20th century skills are much in demand. I don’t know a sewer who has not turned their sewing machine to pumping out as many masks as materials permit. All of us are finding ourselves more responsible for feeding ourselves and planning meals around what’s available, what needs to be used & what our children will actually eat. Suddenly we all find ourselves responsible for a much less specialized lifestyle: we must care for and teach our own children, clean our houses, prepare our meals, plan our exercise, tend our gardens and mend our small breakages without turning to the experts we have so often employed for those purposes. The fortunate folks must do that while ALSO maintaining their own specialized expertise. I think a lot about the people who are suddenly and scarily unemployed – and hope that is a very temporary condition.
I found myself thinking of this as Adam and I pursue some of our 19th century interests in support of the life we are now living. As you all likely know by now, I’ve been baking like a fiend, as has Adam. We (ok, Adam) started a wild-caught sourdough, and we’ve made doughnuts, loaves and loaves of bread (Adam), garlic knots (twice), dinner rolls, lemon poppyseed pound cake, hot cross buns, sourdough cinnamon rolls (twice), vegan chocolate banana bread muffins, and truly awful sponge cake. I’ve learned things in the process, like how not to make sponge cake, what autolyzing is (and when to use it) and the differences and uses of active dry and instant yeast. I still have much to learn, especially about how not to be spherical if I eat all this stuff.
Adam has also been toying with new skills. He’s been studying the craft of cocktail making (not helping with the ol’ waistline) and learning about muddling, mixing, shaking and stirring, as well as the balance of tastes.
But into this mix of working full time (or more), trying to raise and teach our children, tending to all the household needs, and pursuing fattening hobbies, we’ve added one more. Last year, we refinished the floor in our hallway, ridding ourselves of the five bookcases that lived there (which were hand me downs twenty years ago) and moving many boxes of books to the basement. The plan was to build bookcases to reclaim our library-hallway. And the time to do that work has finally arrived.
One of the many things I love about my husband is the seriousness with which he tackles learning new things. Right now, next to his desk, you can find a sheet which shows his experiments making boules (round bread loaves) and seeing which combination of techniques and ingredients leads to what outcomes in terms of crumb, density, flavor etc. He also has planned out the attack for the book cases (which are also intended to hold the cat litter boxes in an inobtrusive way) carefully; with lists, measurements, drawings and calculations. It’s really a joy to watch him tackle it, and dig in with all the seriousness and skill he brings to everything.
We all are learning lots about the folks we are confined with during this Corona-era. This joy and thoroughness in learning isn’t a new thing I’ve learned about my husband, but it is one I am reminded how much I love.