On baking day, I remember the Plain(s) Women
I slide open the drawer and reach for the card. I carry it to the counter, then bend low to pull out the mixer. I collect eggs. Milk. Butter. Yeast. Special bread flour from the freezer.
I glance at the card. “Aunt Waneta’s Cinnamon Rolls,” it says. In my heart, I’m smiling. Mr. Schrock has been blessed with aunts who know how to bake, and these wonderful rolls are her specialty. Emulating her skill has been a goal of mine, and I know that I’ve got it mastered.
I’m glad. So are my hungry, hungry hippos (read, ‘four sons’).
Measuring, scooping, whirring, blending. In this moment, I feel it; the tugging of my roots. The strands in my DNA that stretch back, back and back to the women of years gone by. Another time, another age, another way of life.
Back to the Plains Women.
There is nothing (that’s what I’m thinking as I stand there, mixing) that connects one to the earth and its Maker more than this–hands in flour; grains crushed and blended with yeast; those eggs; the heavy, cold milk; water; salt; sugar. The elemental ingredients of life, and hearth, and of home.
Like that, I’m back on Grandpa’s farm on the prairie. Searing summer sun beats down on fields of gold. Turn by turn by turn, the combine with its wide, gaping jaws and hungry teeth, it eats up the grain. Then, belly full, it lumbers around a turn and up the row to where we cousins sit, giggling and wiggling, transfixed in the back of the wheat truck. A molten river of kernels like a waterfall of wheat, and we bury our toes and chew the grains ’til they turn into gum.
Wheat, and kernels that fell right down, first to die, then to sprout for the harvest.
Grains, crushed. Becoming flour.
I flip the bowl over. With my two hands, I push the dough into a loose rectangle. In the bottom drawer, I find what I need–a special gift that a special woman once gave to this bride. Grandma Marie Schrock, my beloved Mister’s grandmother. Who never drove a car, never had a career, but raised a horde of kids and fed them well. Hearing that I had no rolling pin, but was using a ketchup bottle instead, she stopped in one day with the aunts and handed me that gift.
In my peaceful house all these years later, I think of her. And I’m grateful.
The microwave dings. Reaching in, I take the melted butter and pour it over the dough. Opening another drawer, I find the pastry brush, another gift to me, and spread the goodness around. My hands sprinkle brown sugar atop the butter, then dust it all over with cinnamon. How many times my sister-in-law’s kindness has helped me over the years, I cannot say. But, thinking of her, I’m grateful.
I roll it all up into a long, luscious tube. The pans are sprayed, and I draw out the knife that my mother, another Plains Woman, once gave me. Quick and clean, it slices, and one after another, curled-up sweetness begins to nestle down into pans.
It was my mother who taught me to bake bread when I was 12, and I never looked back. While some women were scared of working with yeast, I was confident enough to try new things. From bread to rolls to pizza crust, it’s a skill that’s delighted my family.
In a culture and an age where words stayed tucked down in hearts. Where feelings weren’t framed into syllables, or sentences. One learned that, instead, they came peeking out in gifts and gestures and helps.
The Bosch mixer that came once for Christmas. The KitchenAid we got for our wedding. The sturdy pie pans that have been filled and emptied a hundred, hundred times. That knife and the lessons…
I am grateful.
I take the first pans from the oven. Beauty. Perfection. A heavenly aroma that will wrap around my family as they straggle in, one by one, later on.
On a cold, *spring* day, I sit in my kitchen. The coffee’s hot, the pastry’s sweet, and this one, little Plains Woman’s contented.