Quote of Inspiration

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Atilla and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fig #1

Each week, on Monday morning, I will post my choice for the week. As I said, some experiences will span many weeks (learning to play an instrument, reading The Brothers Karamazov), but each week I will focus my energies (both mental and physical) on one experience only.

This week I have chosen to bake challah. Simple enough, so it would seem. And yet....for years....I haven't done it. I first became interested in challah watching an old Sex in the City episode. I know. That's not very spiritual or domestic of me. But I remember watching Charlotte braid the challah, and from that point forward I seemed to see it everywhere and hear it raved about time and again. Challah this and challah that. My little sister even made her own, and she sent me a photograph of it and it was lovely. Really. It looked bakery-quality.

For those of you unfamiliar of challah, this is what it looks like:

Isn't it beautiful? Okay, so I will also admit that I've never even tasted challah. I know. And let me tell you why I've never tasted challah, because I've been tempted many times. But each time I am at a bakery or at Whole Foods and see a lovely, buttered loaf of the braided bread, I think to myself: No, I'll not buy it. I'll go home and make it instead.

So, I don't buy it, and when I get home all of my good intentions fall by the wayside because I am afraid. Afraid? Afraid of what? Well, here it is: I'm afraid to braid the dough. I know. It seems so simple, but there it is. I'm afraid of dough. I'm not having nightmares about it or anything. I don't wake up and slap my husband screaming: THE DOUGH, THE DOUGH!!!

But I'm afraid the dough won't rise. I'm afraid it will be too sticky. I'm afraid that I won't braid it properly and my wonky results will be a mockery of religious bread. What if it's terrible and I spend all day working on it and then I have to trash it because it's a flop?

Even as I'm typing this, it's hard to make the connection between my brain and my emotions, because clearly being afraid of dough is an emotional response. I mean, I bake and cook every day. I have even made homemade bread. And it was good. So, where does this fear of challah come from?

So, I have to do with the challah what I will have to do with all my fears..........face it and conquer it instead of turning tail and refusing to try anything at all at which there is the slightest inkling I might fail.

Because, after all, what's the worst that could happen? The dough won't rise. Okay. I won't braid it properly. Fine. It will burn. Oh well.

Oh well.

And if any of those things happens, I will resist the urge I've always had when I fail - to run away from the offensive experience and say to myself: fine. I don't bake challah. It's not for me.

I will resist this, and I will start again, with more yeast and more time and more braiding. And I will do it until I do it right. I will be Julia Child with her pounds of onions, and then I'll sit down with a cup of tea and break bread and think about what's on the list for next week.

Wish me luck and please......if there are any challah experts out there......give a girl some tips?



  1. Good luck with the Challah! It really is not too hard. There are great instructions on the internet on how to do the proper braid, and I am sure you can even find a video. I would suggest trying to do the braid when the kids are not around because it can get confusing! Day-old Challah makes great french toast...enjoy and please post a picture!

  2. Thank you, Ashley! I looked up videos on you tube and found a few and the Williams Sonoma website has a good how-to with photos. So, since this is going to be a fabulous success, I'll be dreaming of French toast in a few days.


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