As I was working on Brandon’s story, I happened to read Linda Pastan’s beautiful poem, “Bread,” in her collection Traveling Light (WW Norton, 2011). The first lines caught me right away: “It seems to be the five stages/of yeast, not grief/you like to write about’/my son says…”
Brandon is a swimmer, and I knew from my own experience that exercise helps with grief—but I wanted to give him a healing, therapeutic activity that he could do on his own. Pastan’s poem offered a connection between Brandon’s bread making and his need for comfort after his dad’s death.
As I researched the experiences of American draft resisters in Canada, I read about the Yellow Ford Truck in Toronto, a place where Americans went to meet each other, to learn about safe places to stay, and to pick up supplies—including fresh bread. What if—my favorite question to ask myself while writing a first draft—what if Brandon’s father baked bread in Canada and passed that skill on to his son? Baking could be something they shared, besides baseball.
When my sons were growing up, I often made all the bread our family ate. I loved the whole process: the magic of live yeast, the way the flour mix changed during kneading, the feeling of the dough as I shaped it into loaves, the smell of fresh baked bread filling the house.
My favorite recipe is the one that Brandon uses in the novel. It’s taken from The Tassajara Bread Book, by Edward Espe Brown, published by Shambala in 1970. My copy is stained and battered but the recipe never fails. I also love a little book that my cousin Jane gave me: The New Book of Favorite Breads from Rose Lane Farm, by Ada Lou Roberts (Dover Publications, 1970). That book taught me the trick of adding ¼ teaspoon of ginger to the yeast and sugar mix at the beginning. It works like a charm.