I ended yesterdays post with yet another mind-meander that took me from reflecting upon the importance of research and building up strong foundations and comparing that with making sourdough bread. The word dough is, of course, used for money, and the term cultivating is related to growing things, incubating them, feeding them until they are ready for purpose.
Sometimes I bake quick bread – I love the Dan Lepard recipe that is almost foolproof – very little kneading, no special faffing, just simple ingredients, mix them up, shape them and bake them. Fab texture, satisfying and better than any bought loaf.
Then I got into sourdough – the opposite of a quick fix, it takes ages – indeed two weeks, just to get the starter started. It needs feeding every day, room temperature conditions, thrives on organic wholefood flours and responds well to rye flour, which Lepard’s recipe struggles with. Sourdough needs rigorous kneading, lots of proofing and then careful cooking ensuring heat and steam combine appropriately to produce a chewy crust and a light but hearty crumb. Phew, they sound like chalk and cheese – but they are both lovely breads, just different things made with similar ingredients.
Art projects can be like that. Often similar in principle and aims and outcomes. But some are intensely research-led and develop over time, others benefit from a rapid development and speedy production to meet the needs of audiences and funders. Some are all about the journey, the outcome is not the priority. Others the finished product is all. Some artists work solo in glorious tranquility with their ‘do not disturb’ sign swinging after they slam their door for privacy. Others thrive on being out there with the audiences and participants, mingling madly. Like the sourdough starter, feed them with attention and interaction and they will develop beautifully and the artwork will be fully formed and robust. That’s not to say the artists beavering away in their garret aren’t developing fully formed and robust work, they just do it differently.
So just as I am a portfolio baker, so I am a portfolio producer. I enjoy the mix, the changes. I thrive on change and enjoy the differences – one minute there just aren’t enough minutes in the day and I’m running full-pelt towards the finishing line as a deadline approaches. Other projects take years to consider, reflect upon and take shape. The ingredients are more or less the same, but the handling differs and the production process does too.
You need/knead dough for both activities – breadmaking and art projects. Over-needing/kneading can create a heaviness, so the baker/producer must be aware of the different touches required according to who it’s for. And how long it might take. What the baker/producer is good at is knowing their ingredients, understanding the limitations and appreciating the special characteristics of their raw materials.
Only then can we serve up something that lingers for some time in the memory and each element is noted and relished.
Pass the butter.
(This is the sourdough)