One of the interesting things that has happened this year is the enormous increase in people baking bread. I am baking at the same level, and I don’t limit myself to just a few things. I will admit that I am fairly new to the pasta scene; I only started a few years ago. One thing that I love to make up to this point is gnocchi. I like to eat it too. Each batch gets a little better, and I am getting braver about experimenting with adding different herbs and spices from my pantry.
I don’t know why baking bread has taken over as the primary thing to make with bread. Pies, pastries, and pasta provide a way to make something delicious while getting to play with your food. Seriously. Have you ever rolled out a pie crust or cut biscuits? Pie crust is a little tricky, and I haven’t quite gotten mine to where I can quit obsessing over them. Cakes are easy peasy, and you can always make cupcakes if you want less mess for serving. The main thing is to quit worrying about getting flour on the counter, and just make something. That was the hardest part of learning to make pasta. I now don’t worry about the amount of flour used to keep the pasta from sticking together, and it is lots of fun to form shapes.
When I am working on repetitive tasks like making gnocchi, my mind ponders random things. Like, who makes the rules about not playing with your food? I bet that person(s) has never made bread, pasta, or even colored outside the lines. Sometimes you have to do that. I am a firm believer that everyone should do something creative every day. It doesn’t have to be good; in fact, it can turn out completely horrible. The point is to make something. Get a coloring book, a tub or two of Play-doh, or even just sing out loud in your car. Loudly, if the song is one you love.
We learn a lot when we make things, and it nourishes the soul in ways that you can’t always put into words. I craft and make things almost as much as I cook and bake. Sometimes the process doesn’t go the way I was expecting (like regular hot glue doesn’t stick for long to metal), and now and then I wind up with something amazing. With each project, I put a little bit of myself into it, and I give myself permission to fail (and also to succeed). I’ve learned more by the “fails” and “almosts” than if things turned out spectacularly every time.
Which brings me back to pasta and bread. I’ve been baking and cooking since I was very young. My parents were very supportive, and didn’t tell me until I was in my late 20s that they flushed my early attempts to fix them breakfast in bed. To be fair, I was about 7 or 8 years old and just learning my way around the kitchen. But they were never negative, and my dad taught me how to cook. Because of that, I am not afraid to try new things. Pasta seemed scary to make at first, but each batch is better than the one before it. My sourdough baking is the same way. I don’t always get the loaf dialed in (weather and humidity are a thing!) but the results are tasty, and I can always turn it into breadcrumbs or a panzanella salad.
If at first you don’t succeed, dust the flour off and try again.
If you need help getting started learning how to be creative, this is a great place to start. Felicia Day is truly delightful both in person and in her writing. I hope you check it out.
(This is a personal recommendation, I do not receive any remuneration for any purchases. She really is that nice in person!)