kneading the dough

It’s 8:13pm on December 24th and I’m kneading cinnamon roll dough. Our raw milk delivery guy was later than expected, so I find myself home instead of a holiday party on the UES. The first time I made cinnamon rolls from scratch was the first year of co-habitation with my partner. We had recently come to terms with the realization that in our previous relationships we had both taken on the same role – the one who didn’t cook and I was eager to show that in addition to my fierce feminism and ideological capacity I was also certainly capable of whipping up a delicious baked good. I googled a recipe, checked it 247 times, mixed, kneaded, rose, baked and iced. I think the process took 6 hours total. They ended up being pretty tasty. At least good enough that I shared them with the rest of our co-workers the next day.

Today, I move with the ease of a decade. I don’t fret over measuring everything thrice. I’ve come to terms with the ambiguity that comes with “a pinch” or “a dollop” or “a handful.” I trust that I know when the dough has turned in on itself, and know by touch how elastic it should be. I’m not a great cook, but now, I’m comfortable in the kitchen. I look at the clock – 8:15 – only two minutes of kneading have passed. And I remember just how long kneading takes. It’s active, engaged, physical. Every minute feels like twenty.

On the farm where my mother grew up, they spent all day Sunday prepping meals and baked goods for the week. Ten little hands took turns pouring, stirring, and churning. My grandmother oversaw the process – so many mouths to feed. My arms grow tired thinking of those tiny muscles working dough. Under my fingers it becomes less and less sticky. It’s 8:18, only two more minutes to go. One cohesive unit now held together with everyone’s favorite things: egg, flour, sugar, yeast, salt, butter and raw milk, fresh from the delivery van.

As a woman in utero, we hold all of the eggs we’ll ever have. They’re follicles – little pre-eggs – to clarify, but the point is that they’re with us from the beginning. This means that a woman has the potential to hold her great-grandchild within her own body. It’s 8:20 and officially time to roll out into a rectangle of dough. I think of my grandmother squatting on a stool in the barn. Of how silly it would seem to her that I get my raw milk delivered in a van. Tight grip, with each squeeze to the end of the nipple, warm milk squirts in the bucket. With each splash I give thanks to the cow for sharing it with me.

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