There is bread dough rising on my countertop. I made it by hand. I do not use a breadmeaker. I do not use a mixer. I take flour, honey, yeast, salt, and water, and I mash it together and bake it until it makes bread. The whole process takes anywhere from 4 to 6 hours, depending on the type of bread, and it inevitably makes a complete mess of the kitchen.
There isn’t much to pick between my bread and the artisan stuff from the Italian bakery down the street. It might be marginally cheaper to make it, but not if you factor in electricity and labour. I guess I have the option of personalizing the loaves, like making them into animal shapes (my giraffe always looks like an amoeba, and if you can tell my three toed sloth loaf from my two toed sloth loaf, you have a better gastro-zoological eye than mine). I can also add random things in from the fridge to spice it up (the pickle bread was good, but the gravy bread was fantastic).
And there is always the brag factor. There are few better feelings than proudly declaring that the misshapen lump you just handed to someone looks that way because you made by hand, not because the bakery hired a man with no arms to meet their disability requirements. Since no one seems to make bread anymore, it has that certain “lost art” cachet that fits in the same category as being able to press your own paper and making your own ink by surprising squids.
In spite of those things, it still doesn’t actually make much sense to bake my own bread. It eats up an entire day, ties me to the stove (or at least hearing distance to the timer), requires a solid half-hour of cleanup, and I rarely get to eat the bread myself anyway (it always ends up as my contribution to a dinner elsewhere).
Again, why bother?
I think that my bread shares its reason for existence with most other things that I do. It is like my writing, my drawing, my building, sculpting, or assembling. As a man, I must make things. I must create things from other things. I must take things that once looked like nothing special and make them things that make women swoon and men nod appreciatively (we don’t often swoon).
My wife has a person growing in her. It is a very small person right now, but it is definitely a person. Her heartbeat makes its heartbeat work. Her belly feeds it. Her warmth keeps it from getting cold. My wife is making something more intricate and delicate and amazing than anything I could hope to create in all my years on this earth. I bake bread and write worlds and draw monsters in a desperate attempt to add something infinitesimally small to creation.
All the while, my wife is creating life.