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Sticky Fingers


Sticky Fingers

"You shall find out how salt is the taste of another man's bread, and how hard is the way up and down another man's stairs." - Dante Alighieri

Living with other families is strange. I always knew it was hard to live with other people (roommates, boyfriends, etc) but another family is a whole different story. You really get a chance to see just how thoroughly different other people are from you. Their eating habits, laundry routine, the way they say good morning/goodnight/I love you — everything is alien to the way you conceive as home.

You know that smell of another persons’ house? That strangeness that you know is their particular aroma and it fascinates yet concerns you? Every experience is like that smell.

That said, I truly enjoy the place I am now. I live on a under a thatched roof on a wallless platform that contains only a bed, mosquito net, and a shelf. Yet I don’t have the choice to play music in the workspace, and I miss it. I don’t have the freedom to twerk all over the damn place, and I miss that too. Nor is there a suitable location to practice yoga (except the beach, which is not all that bad, obviously). 


I am learning; maybe not as much about bread making as I might have imagined a live-in apprenticeship at a bakery would teach me, but about work itself and being part of a small, local business. I am learning about bread-making too, though this type is childlike, occurring slowly through observation and by mirroring the work of the skilled hands around me. It's humbling, tactile and pure.

When my hands first touched the dough they were foolish, clumsily gumming their way through spongy masses of gluten. I couldn’t keep the dough from sticking to every part of my hand — like having the hand of a gecko — as I pulled pieces away to weigh each individual loaf. And attempting to pull correct weights was a process in itself. It is important to consider that for an imperial system-trained mind to suddenly work in the metric system feels impossible; trying to change the brain from cooking by volume to cooking by weight is a drastic shift.

However, it is beginning to work even if I still can’t wrap my brain around it logically. At first, when I pulled a piece that was the correct weight, I knew it was a fluke, whereas for the others around me it was expertise. Now I'm beginning to understand the difference between the various doughs of bleached and whole grain. They rise at different rates, require different approaches with your hands, and have drastically different weights by volume.

Waiting for the last load of loaves to be ready to come out of the oven...

I’ve learned too that whole grain bread has very little whole grain flour in it (or at least here); the ratio of white to wheat is somewhere around 4:1. Not so whole after all. And I question the health and sustainability of bread as a food in a region where it can’t be grown effectively. I desire to challenge this system... Yet the question is: am I here to change the world or only to witness it?

I know that right now I’m in a place where I have to observe, to see how things work with as little judgment as I can muster. Then one day when I am in a place to influence, I can do so with more understanding. Not just of food itself, but of how everyday people interact with and are affected by it.



Kombucha, Kombucha, Kombucha

"Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity." - Hippocrates

My breakfast just arrived at my table, a large goblet of unnaturally pink yogurt pooled around layers of banana and granola. I long for real yogurt so intensely that I close my eyes and picture it in the aisle from the health food store. Those large white cylinders, words promising well-being glinting under the reflected fluorescent lights. My vision blends with a memory from sleep, draws from my brain a fraction of last night's dream.

I am running through an enormous, gleaming health food store, wildly pulling things from the shelf and tossing them ecstatically into the grocery cart. Sauerkraut! Yogurt! Chia! Kombucha, kombucha, kombucha!

Why can't I be where I am? Why can't I enjoy the present moment? I have arrived at my destination, the pilgrimage nearly complete. I am eating the aforementioned pink yogurt on a breezy veranda overlooking the rushing river at the base of Semuc Champey, that most glorious mecca for which I have longed. So I suck it up, take a deep breath, see out instead of seek within and head out to finally see the falls. 

The glorious falls. The cliffs to jump from. The friends I make, climbing an hour deep into a cave with nothing but stubby candles in one hand, held above the water while we swim through black, icy depths with the other. The splif we smoke on a rocky outcrop as the fog descends on us with the dusk, and we try to do nothing but laugh for five minutes. 

And I begin to remember what it feels like to enjoy traveling. But I also know that it requires a strength and well-being that I lost with that fever. The dreams of health food aren't something to be ashamed of, they are the call of my subconscious telling me to stop acting like an explorer and start acting like a patient. 

I move the date of my flight back to The States up by two weeks.