Over the summer my mom found a cookbook from the early 1900’s in one of the closets at my grandparent’s house. The blue canvas cover is fraying at the edges, and multi-color threads in uneven stitches betray the loving hands which re-stitched the binding time and again.
About halfway through the book there is a recipe for yeast rolls written in my great-grandmother’s meticulous cursive handwriting, the pencil fading with time.
One cake of yeast.
An egg-sized knob of lard.
Bake until golden.
Measurements needing to be filled in with knowledge long since passed.
Oven temperatures and length of bake time rendered irrelevant in the absence of electric stoves.
With time and great care, my mom worked through the bits of the recipe she could discern, and filled in the gaps as she went.
6 3/4 tsp of yeast
2 TBSP of lard
Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.
By Thanksgiving she had the recipe figured out, and we all sat down to a breadbasket containing rolls none of us had tasted the likes of in over 20 years.
I stood in the kitchen and watched my mom make the dough.
“Okay, show me how. I’m terrible at yeast breads. I need to know everything.”
I’ve baked my fair share of brick-like biscuits and cement loaves. I wasn’t going to mess up my great-grandmother’s recipe.
I stood like a child at the counter, soaking in the movement of my mother’s hands as she stirred and kneaded and turned and floured. I stuck my wrist beneath the running water to feel what “luke-warm” meant. I waved my hand through the warm oven to feel the temperature needed for the yeast to rise.
It was a full sensory experience.
I took to my own kitchen on the first Saturday after returning home. Running the water from the tap till it felt just so, warming the oven then leaving the door ajar to let it cool to just the right level of “warm,” and praying the yeast would work.
“The Kingdom of God is like yeast worked into dough…”
These days this parable has taken on new meaning to me.
Yes the Kingdom starts small and yet has great impact, and yes the Kingdom is slow and works over a long course of time.
But I also think of my own ineptitude at working yeast through dough.
Diligently working, calling to mind every move of my mother’s hands, every sensation of water and heat and stickiness of dough.
Scrunching my eyes shut remembering faded letters from days gone by with measurements missing – instructions that would seem vital! Why not just fill those in for us, please?
All the while praying the yeast even works.