Thursday, October 11, 2012

My Pretzel Shaped Cocoon

I want to be a pretzel maker.

No, I don’t mean I want to make a batch of pretzels. Been there, done that, it’s kind of a Lent association for me now. And when you can buy frozen pretzels for under $2…the flourtastrophe that making pretzels always becomes is even less appealing.

I want pretzel production to be my JOB.

I know, this seems bizarre, but bear with me.

A few weeks ago, just after our first familial visit to the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, (a culinary nirvana), my youngest and I discovered an Amish market right across the street from her dance studio.

Now, the nearest Amish person house is over 2 hours away from where we live, so discovering an Amish market close to somewhere we go 2x a week was a bit of a novelty.

I know, "discovered" seems silly. It's a large building. But it's only open on certain days, and we had never been there when it was open until a few weeks ago. Hence our discovery. Not unlike European explorers "discovering" America. Like it wasn't there before? hm.

Right inside the building is a large pretzel making area. 4 Mennonite girls work kneading dough, shaping dough—stretch, flip, twist, done!-- taking dough (now magically pretzels) in and out of an industrial oven, dunking pretzels in a crock pot of melted butter (!!!), globbing cinnamon raisin pretzels with sugar glaze, wrapping little hot dogs in pretzel dough, creating 16 other variations of pretzel bites and sandwiches and wraps of delight, and cheerfully taking money from hungry pretzel cravers.

Which of course included my youngest and me.

Oh, the raptures of buttery delight! Oh, the sticky glaze covered fingers! Oh, the fresh squeezed lemonade! We were instantly hooked. I’m not even really a bread person, per se, but these were insane carbalicious perfection.

Pretzel procurement has now become a weekly tradition.

And then…life continues on. And lately, that continuation is just…so…meh. Little frustrations, epic stupidities, schedule impossibilities, back to school stress, work stress, and the over-arching lens of catastrophic illness…I am left so often feeling like This Is Not What I Wished For.

This isn’t a new road, and it runs super close to Whiny Whinestreet, so I want to step carefully. But I was left thinking, after seeing those Mennonite girls working and smiling and pretzel making like crazy, that I should love to be a pretzel maker. The work is so tangible, so instantly gratifying: mix ingredients in proper way. Shape. Bake. Dunk in butter. Sell to happy people (because pretzel buyers seem to be flush with happy anticipation, at least from our brief studies while on line).

There is something so basic and lovely about feeding people as your job.

Ok, so I’m mom. And I work fewer hours than my spouse (way fewer). Feeding people IS my job, but I don’t mean feeding people a protein, not too much carbness, forcing them to taste the salad or broccoli or veggie of choice. THAT is a thankless task most days. Don’t get me started. But feeding people something delicious and lovely, something that’s a treat…pretzel making would be like making cupcakes for a living but without the pressure of making frosting look pretty. My baked things taste fabulous. I have zero patience for decorating beyond a dash of festive sprinkles.

In these days where life is once again living me, I long for the comfort, the safety, the simple pleasure that those pretzel girls seem to have. I do NOT want to be Mennonite (can you imagine my spastic hair in a bun? Or my giant fat head in a little cap? Or LIFE WITHOUT FACEBOOK?? The horror!), and I know that those girls are probably exhausted and super sick of flour and yeast and splatters of melted butter by the end of the day. But there is something about pretzel making, about making people happy AND doing a good work that is super appealing.

I had several years in which I got to be a stay at home mom. I am grateful for that time, even though sometimes money got really tight and I was generally plagued by self doubt. I admit that DURING that time I always felt like I should be working, I needed to do craft fairs or try and write or do SOMETHING to bring in some income. I felt exceedingly BAD at the SAHM thing. My house was always messy, my kids tended to look happily feral, I felt overwhelmed by sleep deprivation and the deadly plague of SAHM comparisons. I never felt good enough at that whole SAHM gig. I tried really hard, but…yeah.

At the same time, I did routinely sew my children clothes for special occasions, and heck, I sewed most of MY special occasion clothing too! I would cross stitch everyone an ornament each year for Christmas. I made random tchotchke out of toilet paper tubes and construction paper. I would cook, and read stories, and then feel guilty for playing FreeCell for hours. Some things, some nurturing kinds of things, those I COULD do. And I miss that, in the crazy hectic yikes our life has become.

Now I work part-time in a job that takes about twice as many hours as I actually get paid for, which is largely my own skewed sense of This Must Be the Best History Class EVER-- EVERY DAY. My house is still a mess, my 10 year old never detangles her hair, my visually impaired/comfort is everything and I don’t want to run up the stairs again teen creates some insane fashion statements (soffe shorts, a tie dye shirt, knee socks and school shoes?), and my first born lives in a biohazard lab. Our weekly schedule looks like a write up of the tactical plans for the assault on Normandy. My dining room table is obscured not by toys and craft projects but by paperwork. Instead of toddler toys all over the floor we have puppy toys all over the floor. I know the pizza place phone number by heart. I’m not sure I’m any better at this gig than I was at the SAHM one.

But now my kids are older. The baby is in 5th grade, and I feel the strain of being done with “mom of little kids” far sooner than I had planned, especially since so many of my friends and family are still having babies. The weather is turning colder, and I think I just want to cocoon my kids somewhere safe, somewhere different than the perpetual stresspot we seem to flounder in so often. Looking at old pictures, we used to be a lot better at just BEING…but maybe that’s the skewed lens of nostalgia.

I have been baking a LOT, and lighting pumpkin candles, and sorting out drawers and things. This feels good, somehow.

Maybe it’s just the change of seasons, maybe in a past life I was a bear and I just want to hibernate, maybe I really AM supposed to just stay home and bake and try and create a HOME for my family instead of a base of operations…

For whatever reason, that pretzel job seems so delightful right about now.

Do you have anything like that? That job/place/moment that seems like it could just be so nice…not the umbrellas and sunshiney beach kind of place, but the cocoon moment? Where do you find that space?

And in the interest of full disclosure, as soon as I wrote the first draft of this I brought one of my children to the aforementioned market, which then led to a complete hypothalamically driven pretzel-tastrophe. Sigh. So much for the cocoon.

At least in my search for that cocoon, I have left a giant trail of baked goods in which to find solace. ; )
My sister took this picture with her phone. How do you like THEM apples? I mean, the actual apples with caramel sauce. And my pumpkin shaped cake. Yum.

1 comment:

  1. If that's the Flemington market, it had become a regular bi-weekly trip for me for meat. It's the only place at home where I could get beef that is actually red, and turkey and chicken sausage with mega flavor, and I had had it up to "here" with the gray "meat" at SR sitting for way too long in those cases, replete with hormones and ick.
    But pretzels and meat aside... they make the World's Most Amazingly Delicious Boston Cream Filled Coconut Topped Dougnut. The cream is so heavy it breaks through the bottom (DD hasn't used that much cream in 20 years), the coconut top is crunchy and sweet. It's the perfect doughnut and I miss it.