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      Photo of Barbara Pierce

Barbara Pierce takes a loaf of bread 

from the oven.



	Baking Our Daily Bread



	by Barbara Pierce

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	From the Editor: The following article first appeared in To 

Touch the Untouchable Dream, the latest in the Kernel Book series 

of NFB paperbacks designed to educate the public about the 

abilities of blind people. It begins with Dr. Jernigan's 

introduction. Here it is:

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	As regular Kernel Book readers know, Barbara Pierce is the 

wife of a college professor and has raised three children. She 

serves as Editor of the Braille Monitor (the National Federation 

of the Blind's monthly magazine), works from a fully equipped 

home office--complete with computer, e-mail, and Internet access-

-a work arrangement which meshes perfectly with her love of 

homemaking. Here is what Barbara, who is totally blind, has to 

say about baking our daily bread:

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	One day my college roommate, whose usual cooking projects 

were limited to what she could achieve in our popcorn popper, 

returned from a trip to the supermarket with two loaves of frozen 

bread dough. She announced with glee that she was going to bake 

them and provide us with warm, homemade bread to go with the 

cheese spread, oranges, and brownies my mother had sent in her 

latest care package.
	Having been party to dinner-roll making at home, I was 

skeptical about how well the loaves would rise in our frigid dorm 

room, but I went off to class hoping for the best. When I 

returned several hours later, I was gratified to find that the 

loaves had thawed but unsurprised to observe that they were still 

the same thin logs they had been when they arrived, even if they 

were now pliable.
	 Water left in a cup did not quite freeze in that dorm 

during the winter, but I had been glad to master the art of 

dressing while still wearing my flannel nightgown. I decided I 

would have to intervene if we were to have bread for supper.
	By combining our available resources, I managed to construct 

a sort of incubator using my stool and desk lamp and my 

roommate's sheepskin throw. It worked beautifully, and gradually 

through the afternoon the bread began to rise. Those loaves were 

only the first hatched in our cobbled-together incubator that 

year and baked in the kitchen down the hall.
	At home the following summer I began experimenting with 

making bread from scratch. My mother was trained as a home 

economist, and what she does not know about cooking is not worth 

learning. She taught me the rules for handling yeast correctly 

and for kneading dough effectively. In the end I learned not to 

be afraid of bread-making. It was a gift that has held me in good 

stead through the years.
	The spring before I got married, the minister's wife at the 

church I attended while a student gave me a recipe for making 

four loaves of wonderful potato bread. I made the recipe several 

times before we had children, but I found it infinitely valuable 

once the children came along and began enjoying peanut butter and 

jelly sandwiches and fresh bread and jam. But the best part of 

that potato bread was my accidental discovery that it lent itself 

beautifully to bread sculpture.
	This is an art form ideally suited to blind bakers and small 

children, because as long as the sculptor's hands are clean, the 

dough can be handled and reshaped as often as necessary. (Mother 

can even surreptitiously reconstruct a masterpiece that has 

suffered from the competition of too many small hands.)
	I eventually learned to divide the dough into three equal 

pieces and give each child a section of counter, a greased cookie 

sheet, and his or her part of the dough. This did not end the 

warfare exactly--bargaining sessions for a little dough from a 

neighbor's unused hoard had some tendency to turn into raids. But 

for a number of years in our family, Christmas preparations 

included making loaves of bread in the shapes of Santas, angels, 

Christmas trees, bells, and shepherds to give to neighbors and 

friends.
	Octopi, Easter bunnies, Jack o'lanterns, and valentines warm 

from the oven have also been eagerly consumed through the years 

with melting butter and raspberry jam in our kitchen.
	When a cook is unafraid of yeast, the word spreads like 

magic. For years now I have made communion bread for our church. 

Hot cross buns, filled with currants and spices and decorated 

with crosses in lemon icing, are my contribution to the annual 

breakfast at church between the Easter services. I have even 

begun supplying the three-kings cake, which is really a sweet 

bread filled with candied cherries and raisins, for our Epiphany 

celebration.
	People who don't bake are often surprised that I do so much 

of it. My husband is a college professor, so through the years I 

have turned out an endless array of cookies, bars, cakes, and 

quick breads for his classes. Doing that kind of baking is fun, 

and it's important to me to feed students who aren't getting 

homemade treats. But bread-baking satisfies something deep inside 

me. Kneading bread dough is a wonderful way to release 

frustration or anger and turn them into something nourishing and 

comforting. Even the fragrance of baking bread is a blessing to 

everyone who steps through the door.
	Bread is a living presence in the kitchen. It is very 

forgiving of mistreatment or neglect. A loaf that has been left 

to rise for too long can be kneaded and reshaped for another try. 

If the room is too cold, moving the loaf to a warm place is 

enough to persuade it to begin rising. Even if the cook manages 

to kill the yeast, a little more can be dissolved and worked into 

the dough to rescue the project. It is easy to tell when bread is 

done even when one can't judge by looking at the color. A tap 

with fingertips on the crust readily tells the listener when the 

loaf is ready to be tipped out of the pan onto a cooling rack.
	Several years ago I received a bread machine for my 

birthday. Since I had gone back to work and the children had left 

for college, I had fallen out of the habit of bread baking. The 

machine and the books of recipes for single loaves of mouth-

watering breads I subsequently received inspired me to begin 

baking bread again.
	But this time it was altogether different. The machine 

instructions said that I was to place the various ingredients in 

the bowl in a prescribed order, close the lid, press the correct 

button, and wait for the finished loaf to materialize. It seemed 

implausible, but it worked. The only problem was that the loaf 

was shaped like a flowerpot.
	All went well, however, until the day I discovered that my 

bread machine had suicidal tendencies. During the kneading cycle 

the machine sometimes began walking itself toward the edge of the 

counter. As long as I was in the room when this dangerous 

behavior began, I could keep pushing it back to safety. It was 

only a matter of time, however, until I was out of earshot and it 

actually leaped off the counter with a resounding crash and 

unfortunate consequences to the machine.
	The first time this happened, the glass dome shattered. So 

much for baking oddly shaped loaves. I quickly discovered to my 

joy that I could remove the dough from the bowl at the end of the 

kneading process and shape the loaf myself, allow it to rise in 

the conventional way, and bake it in the oven.
	My new arrangement worked well for quite a long time. Of 

course the machine continued its self-destructive behavior, and 

every time it fell another dent appeared or something else 

rattled its way loose and eventually off. The cord was too short 

for me to place the bread machine on the floor while I was using 

it, and nothing that I could devise kept it from wandering.
	My poor machine leaped from the counter for the last time 

months after I had made the transition to doing the baking 

myself. So I happily abandoned the machine that had taken up so 

much space on my counter and retained all the wonderful new 

recipes I had collected. My mixer has a bread hook, so I began 

tossing together the ingredients and beating them with the mixer 

to make loaves as easily and efficiently as the machine ever did 

the job.
	It pleases me to bake, slice, and serve my own bread. But I 

couldn't bake all our bread the way I do if I did not work at 

home most of the time. In fact I count providing all our bread as 

one of the many advantages of having a job that keeps me at home.
	What does any of this have to do with blindness? Nothing and 

everything. Like thousands of other Americans I love to bake. My 

family regularly sits down to fresh Stollen on Christmas morning, 

homemade pizza with Italian bread crust, and crusty French bread 

loaves on picnics. The only difference is that my family laughs 

together to think how many of the people who know us only 

casually believe that my husband must necessarily prepare all the 

meals in our home, do the laundry, and keep the house clean. He 

grumbles that it is hard to wear the crown of sainthood 

undeservedly.
	Gradually we in the National Federation of the Blind are 

teaching the public that blind people can and do carry out our 

responsibilities, living full and productive lives. Through the 

years I have taken much satisfaction from feeding my family and 

teaching my children, God's children, and the children of my 

friends to bake their daily bread.

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