Since the birth of her child Afu, everyone simply calls her Afu’s Mama. She is a young mother in her thirties.
Before moving to Tainan, Afu’s Mama lived in Taipei and worked as a product designer for bakeware and kitchenware. It was also in Taipei where she started to learn bread-making during her free time. Not long after the birth of Afu, she and her husband decided to move to Tainan. Knowing she would be busy with raising the child, as well as the fact that it would not be easy to get a designer job for baked goods in Tainan, Afu’s Mama had planned to work from home as a baker who only bakes with natural yeast. The story for one to start their own business can be as simple and straight-forward as Afu’s Mama’s.
I love eating bread, but making my own bread is just too complicated for me. No matter how much bread machines have simplified the bread-making process, I still see handmade bread as the only authentic type of bread. For this particular reason, I find it absolutely pleasurable to watch Afu’s Mama making her bread. Among all varieties of bread, French breads are her favorite. While most people typically associate French bread with baguette, it is only one type of French bread. Characterized by its chewy texture, French bread is a simple type of bread that is made only with water, salt, and flour.
The magical yeast “I use Levain Liquide as the leavening agent for my bread. It is also called ‘old dough’ or ‘sourdough’,” says Afu’s Mama.
“A homemade yeast with a French name just gives a magical touch to the whole thing, as if it was a secret recipe of the shop,” I reply.
“It is not entirely a secret, but each baker has their own yeast recipe. Levain Liquide is a mixture of rye flour and water that ferments without the help of any commercial yeast or other leavening agents. It only relies on the rye flour and water mixture to take on the wild yeast in the air to ferment into yeast. Not adding any content of sugar to the mixture allows me to make bread of purity.
“This is all about science. I need to calculate everything precisely, the amount of flour, the temperature, the time, and even the seasonal change can affect the result of the fermentation. Even with my years of experience, there are times when I only realized my yeast hasn’t fermented properly when I saw my bread not rising well in the oven,” Afu’s Mama seems to take it somewhat easy as she talks.
“I don’t like time being wasted on a failure.
“Therefore, making bread is also a process of learning to accept failures. We need to understand life doesn’t always pan out the way you want it to be.” Looking at how Afu’s Mama kneads her dough, I am so looking forward to seeing the bread coming out of the oven.
How long is long enough? The moon takes around 29 to 30 days to go through a cycle of all phases, wheat crops harvest twice a year, ten sea salt bread roll takes mere 30 minutes to bake… Time flies when you are spending it on things you enjoy. Can people be happier if they learn to accept failures and allow efforts going in vain?
Don’t sell it “How about your kid? Afu hasn’t started primary school yet, what does he think about you selling bread?” I get curious about Afu when looking at the pig toy Afu left on the chair this morning when he had to rush to school.
“He would ask me not to sell it when he sees the bread he likes.”
“He’s so adorable! What if he likes all the bread?”
“The world could be a more interesting place if we don’t trade with money. We can directly exchange goods or services. It must be more fun if we didn’t need to earn money.”
I believe many freelancers can associate with this wish, we all wish a more friendly society where we can live a life without over-emphasizing on earning money.
The joy of being alone “Have you ever thought of having a co-worker? Don’t you find it boring to bake alone and being on your own selling your bread outside of a cafe?” I ask Afu’s Mama as she swiftly scores the dough with a razor-like tool.
“When co-workers get together, they normally talk about tips for raising a kid, what kinds, of course, do the kids go to, or do some online group buying. As time went by, I felt I was getting more like them. Is this what I want? Perhaps this is what a society does to people.”
“What if you need new inspirations for your bread?”
“That’s why I need friends. Friends can be students from my baking class, other sellers I meet when selling bread, and my customers. It is essential to share information so that I can keep myself up to date with the trending varieties of bread and learn about other sales channels. However, I do enjoy being alone.”
To work together with others or to work alone? This is a question that sometimes comes to my mind too. As freelancing has become a popular trend these days, this also affects our social structure. Be it on the level of work, learning, creating, or interpersonal relationship, everyone should feel more empowered to express themselves as an individual. This is a fascinating change. In the year coming, I wish we all can learn to treasure the joy of being alone and to seek our ideal ways of life through being in solitude.