Saturday, October 24, 2009
giving good weight and the art of being here now
Giving Good Weight is a short story by John McPhee originally published in The New Yorker in 1979. It is about a green market in NYC and focuses on the duality of the challenges faced by vendor and customer and how their lives collide amidst the produce. McPhee's colorful descriptions and careful prose transport you right to that moment in time.
In the story, 'giving good weight' means giving a little something extra. Here at the bakery the metaphor takes on a life of it's own. Giving good weight can mean a variety of things, whether going the extra mile for a customer, weighing (and therefore WORKING) accurately and speedily. It also, as I've recently realized, means giving proper attention to the moment at hand. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you are more likely to succeed if you give that moment, that task...good weight- ALL of your attention. One of the things I love about cooking and baking is that while, of course, there is a certain amount of planning and reflection, to execute a successful dish, it is completely necessary to stay present. Whether you are peeling 25 lbs of onions or rolling out 50 baguettes...you must take the time to smell and taste and feel. It's true, good cooking does require some waiting time, but it is an anxious, fully participatory wait. Your heart and soul are in the pan or in the bowl, watching over the sear, fretting over the rise. The reward is as much in the doing as in the end result.
It is that way with small children also, a matter that has challenged all 3 of us (Sharon and Kate and I) over the years, trying to be present in our jobs and in our families. At times the two worlds enmesh with alarmingly heartwarming results as the kids grow to become helpful and contributing members of the bakery team. It makes me proud and grateful and I hope that above all they learn the ablility to appreciate the moments they have to learn in such a warm and creative environment and with that, be capable to fully participate in the moment, because here, it makes no difference where you came from or where you are going, it's what you can contribute right now!
Isn't that right, Blaise?