I have this idea that one day I'm going to have to live off the land, without the conveniences of things like meat that someone else has killed and a produce section. Things like gardening, food preservation, fire-building, and fort-building are all skills that I feel a certain urgency to learn. While not as horrifying as "how to pay the cable bill this month" or "that sound my car makes when I first turn it on," "what to do in a global catastrophe" is always there reminding me that I'm running out of time to learn how to do all those things that we as a population have spent the last 1,000 years making easier, so easy in fact that we've forgotten how to do them altogether.
So, on the first day of 2011, while I was thinking about December 21, 2012, which is less than two years away now, I decided that I was going to bake. When the engine of the world grinds to a halt, men will still want bread. People have been successfully baking bread since the Neolithic Age. I have never been successful. On hindsight I think that that is because instead of shortening I've always used butter. I don't know how to make shortening but I feel pretty certain that I could make my own butter if I had to, and I had access to a cow. The butter bread has always been edible, but it came out like a little bread-flavored brick. This particular day I decided to use shortening. If I'm forced into a position in which I can't purchase shortening, dense bread will probably be the least of my worries after all. It takes a good half a day to make yeast bread from scratch, what with all the rising and kneading and all, but it's worth it. I like the idea of starting with all these ingredients that are completely useless on their own and ending up with something as delightful as homemade rolls, which is what I made. I don't know if the shortening is what did it, but these particular rolls were fluffy and moist and even better than those that you might get on your table at a restaurant. It was the first time I've ever baked bread and not been at least mildly frustrated at the result.
So, come the day when bread is no longer mass produced and sold on shelves, I've got that one covered, and as long as shortening is still mass produced and sold on shelves, it will be fluffy and moist. Here's to learning new things. And it's a little late, but happy new year.