In today's study of The Gentle Art of Domesticity we're reading through pages 126 - 135 which will complete the "Practical" chapter.
If you've missed any of the book study posts you'll find them all over here.
WHEN THE BREAD BUG BITES
Like many, Jane often skipped the bread chapters in her cookbooks because she knew she'd come away feeling inadequate, lazy and with organisational shortcomings, but then she had an epiphany (a few actually) and occasional breadmaking became a joy and not a perceived burden.
"...I adore making bread. I find it one of the most satisfying, therapeutic, enjoyable and primeval activities in life. But I don't do it all the time. I don't impose a homemade bread discipline on myself and I don't feel guilty if I plan to make it and then find I can't. As a result, when I do make bread it's on my own terms, and with great pleasure." (page 126)
Now, I can relate to Jane in this because in my own mother/wife life there have been many seasons where I only offered home baked bread and even prided myself on this...but then the busyness, ill health and distracted seasons stepped in and I found store bought or bakery loaves the only way to satisfy hungry mouths which gathered around the table at mealtimes.
Humbling, let me confess.
Breadmaking is a joy for me and just this past weekend I baked twelve delicious cinnamon scrolls for Blossom's 25th, the aroma of those cinnamon laced swirly buns intoxicating the senses! But these days, with only hubby and I at home, baking just one single loaf is enough and if we need more I buy a good healthy loaf from the store. No guilt, just pleasure that if I want to, need to and have the time, I can bake bread whenever it suits me.
Jane continues, sharing how her attitude to serving home baked bread when guests come for a meal changed when she realised that bread and salt is the traditional 'welcome' she'd personally experienced in Slavic countries.
"I've baked bread for the family for years, but it is only recently that I have come to understand just how much guests appreciate fresh, homemade bread when they eat with us. I really, mistakenly, thought that bread was too humble an offering. Now I think it is one of the finest." (page 126)
As always Jane draws our eyes to observe domesticity in art and with regards to bread she explains what captivated her in the painting above by SETSUKO (1989)…
"I particularly like the way the bread is placed in a symbolic basket, a cot or cradle almost, and is given a snowy white cover that looks like a fine, crocheted lace christening shawl. It's as if the artist is asking the viewer to stop and consider the significance of the simplest domestic details and rituals, so many which centre on bread." (page 126)
Jane has a deep love and respect for the haberdasheries of old, clearly missing their presence in the high street of most small towns and larger cities.
"It upsets me that there are so few real haberdashers and haberdasheries these days. A haberdashery is such a wonderful place where you can always find just what you are looking for and maybe a little treat besides. (page 130)
"For many of us, true local haberdasheries are a thing of the past to be read about in novels like Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell." (page 131)
When we lived in the small country town of Charters Towers (2009-2011) there was a wonderful haberdashery which Blossom and I often wandered through. Sadly, Pollard's closed down last year and what was once a long held family business is no more.
If you have a genuine haberdashery close by be sure to support them by being a regular customer and opting to purchase local rather than always shopping online. There's nothing wrong with being money-wise and purchasing some of your sewing needs where you can save a few dollars, but choosing also to visit the local haberdashery regularly helps keep their doors open and it's also a lot of fun to browse in person.
"Domesticity is not synonymous with housework. In fact, I think there is too much media bossiness about cleanliness and tidiness these days, and nowhere near enough celebration of the joys of homemaking." (page 132)
"We may aspire to a magazine-perfect interior, but deep down we know that the price to be paid in mental anguish and impossible effort, not to mention the deterioration of relations within the household, is far too high.
We should, perhaps, take a more practical approach to domesticity. One in which we live and let live, use the space instead of attempting to subjugate it to our wills, and get on with doing what needs to be done in order to make enough time to enjoy the more pleasurable gentle arts." (page 132)
ON THE LINE
"Where I come from washing lines criss-cross gardens and thread their way round yards and back alleys, like enormous spiders webs that hold whole communities together." (page 133)
"To paraphrase John Keats, a washing line is a thing of beauty and its loveliness increases when we see it not simply as a means to drying clothes, but also as a sort of garden installation, one which adds colour and pattern and movement to a static background." (page 133)
I have always found immense satisfaction and happiness when my clothesline is full and flapping in the wind, a display of freshness and colour that when brought inside at late afternoon fills our home with the fragrance of sunshine and fresh air. No matter where in the country we have lived - be it a cold climate, a temperate climate or here in the tropics where we've chosen to put down roots - I've hung my clothes, towels, nappies and linens out to dry in every season. Truly I tell you, this to me is one of the great domestic joys. In our home here in Townsville we sit outside near the garden to share most of our meals and the simple lunchtime view of flourishing gardens, native birds at the feeder and clean washing waving with the breeze on the clothesline brings quiet satisfaction and a simple delight to our souls.
The painting below is "Town Hens" by Lisa Jensen (1995) and reminded Jane of her own washing line setting...
"Photos of washing lines draw my eye, and flapping, bouncing, jovial arrangements glimpsed from a train gladden my heart....when ever I hang out washing in my overlooked, suburban garden, the hens cluck around my feet, I feel the breeze or sun on my face and arms, and I am engulfed in a moment of pure contentment. Something is right with the world..." (page 133)
I don't know about you, but the reading in today's book study brought delight to my homemaker heart and made me want to relive those days wandering Pollards, bake a fragrant loaf of crusty bread for dinner, set to work planning our hoped-for chicken pen and sit outside with a cup of coffee to simply enjoy our garden, the many birds greedily feasting on a bowl of seeds, and my flapping washing on the line.
Our next reading will be pages 136 - 147 and I'll share that book study post on June 11th.
* How much pressure have you put on yourself to keep a perfect house or provide an endless stream of homemade meals?
* Have the epiphanies which Jane writes about from personal experience and observation offered you a different view of how to love your domestic life and let go of perfectionism?
* What made your heart happy in today's study?
Leave your comments below because I would love to hear your thoughts and I know there are many others who would love to read them as well.
Sunday was our sweet Blossom's 25th birthday and we got to spend most of the day with her here at home. Her every-year birthday cake is not a cake at all, it's cinnamon scrolls drizzled in strawberry scented icing.
If you'd like the recipe let me know and I'll share it later in the week.
Phyllis May's Kitchen is finished.
Goodness, I'm nervous actually writing those words because this project has been a six-month labour of love from first sketches to final stitch - yet, finally I can breathe and allow myself a few days to let this 'end' sink in.
Can't tell you how much I've needed the Lord to carry me through this. What was meant to take three months took six, with many unplanned trials along the way - things He knew about but which caught me off guard time and again. Yet I know that God's timing is always perfect, His seasons for my life were planned before I came to life in my mother's womb, and as surely as I know the sun will rise tomorrow I am assured that His way will always be the best and in that truth I can rest.
I'm currently taking photos and writing the patterns for Phyllis May's Kitchen and as yet I've still not told you any more than 'it's not a quilt' but as you've been anxiously waiting on this block of the month for so long I'll open subscriptions and share the photos before the end of May...which is only a couple of days away so I'd best sign off immediately and 'get a move on' as my Pop would say!
May the Lord God Almighty who cherishes your life with an unbridled love carry you through this day and the next with gentle kindness, mercy and grace.