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MAP

Map
Beneath woodcarved porticos across France (and behind portes-fenêtres just above them) the French are mad about bread!

une MAP (map) acronym
  (une) machine à pain (breadmaker)

Que ceux qui ont faim aient du pain! Que ceux qui ont du pain aient faim de justice et d'amour! May those who are hungry have bread! May those who have bread be hungry for justice and love! --Abbé Pierre

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At our annual family picnic seventeen members of my belle-famille* sat, eyes smiling in anticipation, as they waited for the unveiling of the grand MAP.* My MAP! Normally presents are not exchanged on this occasion but, the picnic taking place at our new farm, my belle-famille saw an opportunity for an impromptu crémaillère.*

Making room for the present, we pushed aside platefuls of homemade clafoutis* and "chocolate mayonnaise"--dessert so rich it covers your thighs with delicate, caviar-shaped cellulite.

While the aunts helped lift the bread machine from its box, carefully removing the Styrofoam packaging and placing the instruction booklet in my clammy hands, I felt the first wave of performance anxiety. Bake bread for the French? She who was raised on store-bought tortillas?

And so it was that my first loaf turned out tortilla flat. It occurred to me that this had something to do with my laissez-faire attitude toward yeast: let the bread make itself without it. I had all of the other ingredients after all...and couldn't baking soda be a substitute?

A quick trip to the market and a teaspoonful of levure* later... and loaf two was rising to the French heavens! I peered into the oven at light, fluffy Brioche* (Corn Tortilla's sweet muse). Brioche would become my muse as well, for the simple fact the she was a smashing success--only without the "smoosh" this time!

A power outage played its part in the demise of loaf three. So I made bread salad with that one. When the kids complained, I assured them that, technically, we were still eating a sandwich and things could be worse--we could be drinking one! Well, the bread was soggy enough... they pointed out.

I emptied the crisper drawer into the bread pan for experiment number four and a carrot loaf appeared three and a half hours later! The principle behind the breadmaker (that all the ingredients can be thrown together haphazardly, then paddled together by a programmable robot) especially appeals to the inner mad scientist within me.

"Loaf Five: Banana bread!" I sing, when Max walks into the kitchen as I am tossing pine nuts, oats, a blackened piece of fruit and a swirl of honey into the steel UFO that hogs our kitchen counter. My kids don't see anything scientific about the heavy, gummy breads that have replaced their airy, golden (and oh-so-BO-ring) baguettes. No, they only see the madness.

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References: la belle-famille (f) = in-laws; MAP = (la) machine à pain = breadmaker; la pendaison de crémaillère (a.k.a. "la crémaillère") = housewarming; clafoutis = creamy, egg-based dessert with (often) unpitted cherries; la levure (f) = yeast; la brioche = light roll (or loaf of bread) enriched with eggs and butter, slightly sweet
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And now a message from our wanna-be breadwinner:
It is not science and it is not madness (OK, just a little of the latter)--it is just one person's lifetime dream of writing from home: a reality that meant giving up the "day job" and the "bread" that came with it. If you enjoy this homespun word journal, please help to support it. Click here for more info.

Thank you!
Kristin

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:: Audio File ::
Listen to my daughter recite today's French quote:
Faire son pain soi-même revient à la mode grâce à la machine à pain qui facilite la tâche. (Making one's own bread is popular again thanks to the breadmaker which facilitates the task.) From "Livres hebdo," 1982. Download map.wav

Shopping:
Programmable Breadmaker: two models: here and here.
French Bread Pan
Paperback "Words" -- more slices of French life here.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety