Jeannette Lambert

Creative living through jazz & intuition

Why I baked sourdough bread in lockdown

During those first weeks of lockdown I would wake earlier than pre-pandemic because I was baking bread. I would fold the sourdough loaf as the oven heated up, then make myself a pot of green tea and watch the news while my family slept. If I watched the news at night I couldn’t sleep.

I was a weekend baker before the crisis began as I’ve always enjoyed the ritual of a Sunday morning loaf, even when the caramelized crusts cost me a few trips to the dentist. But in lockdown I baked nearly daily. I shared bread photos so my friends who also make sourdough bread could give me tips. We compared our starters, the crumb, the crusts.  I updated my baking notes (see link) and gave starter away.

My bread has improved immeasurably. All the bakeries around me are high level so mine needs to be good to compete.  Another perk to baking at home was that I didn’t need to put on my mask to enter the local bakery or to line up in the street as if there’s a war going on. The war vibe especially bothered me and had me thinking about my family in the Netherlands in WWII. My Facebook feed has been flooded with the liberation of the Netherlands as the 75th anniversary passes. All that hiding in haystacks and cupboards, the Hunger winter, stories that are still emerging so many decades later …

I last wore a mask when I went to visit my mother when she had tuberculosis. She’d contracted it from a friend who got it in an airplane. Instead of going to the hospital my mother was suddenly confined to a sanatorium, left languishing with others with tb and the mentally ill. It was just like the film The Cuckoo’s Nest, she told us later on, nightmarish and unfair. I was in Grade Five when she vanished from our home. At lunchtime I’d walk over the rocks along the path through the forest then cross a four lane highway to get to our empty house where I’d cook a box of Lancia lunch while my dad was at work. It was bleak and unappetizing and worrisome. Eventually a doctor friend swooped in and smuggled her out to a hospital in Toronto for treatment. She recovered and lived a very good life, full of adventure and creativity so that reminds me to be hopeful, despite the masks. 

I don’t want my sons to be traumatized by pandemic. This is what got me out of bed each morning and motivated me to bake. So I would serve them fresh hot bread with prosciutto, a variety of interesting cheeses and delicious jams. I cooked complicated recipes for dinner, ordered ever more inventive takeout from all the restaurants scrambling nearby, tourtière that takes three hours to bake, Korean chicken, panzerotti. Michel fried us crepes from my sourdough discard, fried bacon, made eggs. I got local urban roof farm baskets from Lufa delivered to our doorstep, once at 1:50 am when they adjusting to the surge. I got haut de gamme flour from a café nearby that reinvented itself as a pantry shop. A young chef, a friend of JJ’s, sold us meals and sausages he’s made at home. I ordered boxes of freshly harvested snow crab delivered and made ramen from it with locally made fresh noodles. I’ve won an online photo contest held by the Dutch embassy here in Canada for a photo of krokets/croquettes we made during lockdown! Such generous and festive gifts, a Delft blue bracelet and bottle holder especially lovely. Kroket recipe here!

I called the family members that live alone everyday, on the voip pretend landline, old school. We mourned the cousin we’ve lost overseas in the Netherlands, Harry who worked so tirelessly all his life as a long term care nurse, lost to the virus. A month later we mourned the loss of Rachel, the inspiring and loving grandmother, mother, mother-in-law and vocalist. She was thankfully spared from covid-19 but other problems took her away. I’ve lost track of the candles we’ve lit and for whom.

Rachel teaching JJ to make buche de Noel

Precognitive dreams and intuition came to life with the new reality, puzzling hints I’d had in advance suddenly made sense. Dreams of large amounts of planes, inexplicably parked instead of flying. How could we have predicted it? And yet there had been a sense of it on the horizon even before it happened. How many people suffered depression just a month or two before lockdown, seemingly out of the blue with no obvious cause? And then, aha.

How to stay active creatively, after all the concerts and musical adventures that have been lost? All that erasing of the calendar, cancelling trips, of work. In the scraps of time when I can focus I mix and master our latest project, Genius Loci East, inviting talented collaborators in different cities to join in.  I mix Michel’s Ars Transmutatoria project and we make short films to match. I participate in an innovative Full Moon Pink online opera. I record Danger Zone on Zoom with Reg, locked down in Toronto. I comment on our friend Franki Raden’s Indonesian National Orchestra and benefit on Zoom.

Remote schooling suits Theo, our youngest, for the moment as his creativity bursts forth in a new online career as an illustrator. And JJ, our eldest, hopped into the fray to work on the front lines, keeping order at the public markets as a social distancing agent, a new job we’d never heard of before the pandemic. Did all that comfort food give him courage? Faced with another semester of online university he tries to find ways to deal with his own boundless energy.

Armed with hand sanitizer, with homemade cloth masks, with care for one another, we trust that maybe some lives have been spared and we’ll get on the other side of this eventually. It might be a long time before we can cram together at concerts or get over the idea that singing together can be deadly.

We navigated obstacles this summer, being careful with senior family members, keeping to our social bubbles and forest bathing in a series of remote and idyllic lakes and cottages. It has been a relief to feel close to nature instead of haunted by it.

Let’s hope everyone remembers how much they depend on artists and creative ways of living to get them through this dark time. Let’s hope that as we all operate as if we were one unified living organism that just had to stand still for a moment that we hold that thought and continue to look out for one another and keep each other safe.

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