It’s taken years of bread making for me to get it right. I know not to add water that is too hot or too cool to the yeast. That “just right” spot feels intuitive now. I mix the dough with beaters until the density requires a wooden spoon turned by hand. I know the warm spots in the kitchen where the bread will rise best and then, when it’s swollen and ready to burst, I release it from the bowl and its cover to hand knead the whole ball – pushing away and pulling close, turning and dusting with bits of flour. Back and forth, under and over it goes. I fold the dough in, twisting and warming it with the movement of my hands, sensing when it’s the right consistency and ready to rise again.
Then a new pleasure consumes my kitchen. It’s the rising, yeasty scent, with the promise of its comforting taste to come, slathered with soft butter, dripping with honey or dotted with fruity goodness. It’s taken years to gain the ability for homemade bread to be a pleasure worth the time it takes.
I thought of my agility and years of accumulated blunders and eventual skills with bread making when my daughter recently said, in frustration, that she just can’t get the recipe to turn out right – my recipe, handed down to me from an aunt.
“They’re flat,” she says about her breads. “They burn on the bottom.”
I know she’ll experience disappointments and learn to tweak her process, refine her ingredients, be patient, move with the dough, anticipate its goodness, and trust her ability before the results please her.
I remember my first time. Is there anyone who doesn’t?
He bumbled and pulled and unbuttoned. I resisted and pushed away before releasing to my own urges beneath and beside him that night.
These are the two words I conjure to describe losing my virginity.
I’m pretty sure he lost his that winter night, too. He came too fast and hard and it was over before we really knew it happened. But his build up was released, whereas mine was just finding its course. The experience was as sensually pleasing as a piece of dry white Wonder bread topped with Velveeta cheese. There was nothing organic or artistic about the process or the result. I’m sure he would recall the evening differently.
At the time, I couldn’t have wrapped my head around being a woman in my fifties much less imagined that it would take me until this age to have the best sex of my life.
I believe we have to play our way through the blunders and awkwardness of early attempts. We have to use the right ingredients, or find the right lover.
I’ve read about sex and the female body. I’ve experimented with what pleases me. I’ve read about and explored the male body. I’ve learned to push and pull with what pleases my partner, too. I’ve learned to enjoy the play.
With lovemaking, we all start somewhere. We all have a “first.” If, as a woman, your first experience is with an older “wiser” man, then perhaps it is ecstatic and you know the benefit of being coaxed and schooled to an orgasm.
My first is a “burnt on the bottom” and “flat” memory.
I ask my daughter: “You know what I think is essential and often overlooked?”
She glances up at me from her iPhone.
“It’s the temperature of the water you add in the very beginning. Most people make it too hot and that kills the yeast. And too cold will lead to nothing. Tepid. It needs to be tepid.” And we experiment at the kitchen faucet so she knows what that feels like.
“It’s a little thing,” I tell her, “but it’s often the little things that make all the difference in the end.”
Barbara is a writer and photographer, currently freed from a house and its trappings, traveling the country in an RV, capturing beauty and nuances wherever the road leads. She blogs at The Empty Nest Mom about how full life is when the nest is empty; at Bring the Monkey about fiber arts and quilt shops she discovers in her travels, and she is a regular contributor at Vision and Verb; an international community of women.
Part 6 in a series on first sexual experiences.
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