Busy with Beer and Baguettes
Two non-beer-related pieces of journalism this week drew me back to the craft that consumes much of our headspace. Tim Kreider opined in the Times about The ‘Busy’ Trap, or what he called “the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing,” and Samiel Fromartz wrote a fascinating article in March about the fall and rise of the French baguette.
Kreider hit the nail on the head when he wrote,
I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation.
Who hasn’t pulled this move in the past week…errr hour?
Similarly, Fromartz revealed how time contributed to the demise of artisan bread, writing that
[t]he decline first set in…when bakers switched from levain to commercial yeast in order to shorten the bread-making process…bakers added more yeast and cut the rise period to as little as one hour, “suppressing the first fermentation that is the source of all taste…While pursuing the promises of modernity—efficiency, speed, and whiter bread—what French bakers lost was the one indispensable ingredient: time.
In the world of beer, reports this week stated that at least two pumpkin ales were already in stock, and two more breweries were currently bottling and canning their seasonal beers de gourd. In the single word of Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon, “really?” Give me some time to enjoy my Berliner Weisse in the 100-degree heat of summer without thinking about witches and ghosts.
And like the fall of the baguette, some brewers have been adding chemicals to their beers to speed up the brewing process. Apparently, some of us just can’t wait long enough for the wort to filter, so we need additives that possibly compromise flavor and contribute to a headache the next day. I’m not sure who conducted this market survey.
If the chemicals weren’t enough to satisfy our demands for timely beer, we can now purchase cans with wide mouths or “punch tops” that deliver beer to our stomachs fast enough to bypass those silly tastebuds.
Those same tastebuds were of little use to the French, who in the 1980s, ate less and less bread as boulangeries shut down. Fortunately, some artisan bakers went against the grain (pun intended) a few years down the road and returned to lengthy fermentation techniques. According to Fromartz, “Once again, time was the key ingredient for boulangers trying to restore bread to its former glory.”
Similarly, Krieder rediscovered a life of unbusiness, noting that “[i]t’s hard to find anything to say about life without immersing yourself in the world, but it’s also just about impossible to figure out what it might be, or how best to say it, without getting the hell out of it again.”
Here’s to getting out of it again by drinking pumpkin ales within a fortnight of when the orange squashes actually grow from the ground (because, as Rick Lyke writes, “harvest season is about the bounty that the good earth and farm labor provides”). I don’t mind if my lager takes a wee bit more time to filter if it remains additive-free and full of flavor. And I think I’ll survive if air pressure forces me to sip my beer slowly over engaging conversations with friends one evening. My beer won’t be going the way of the baguette.