I don’t read cookbooks for pleasure. They are more like lawn mower repair manuals from my perspective – the words are necessary, but rarely inspiring. The exceptions to my disinterest in cookbooks are the ones about bread baking. I can imagine the texture and pull of the loaf when I read bread recipes.
Today, I was dipping into my latest library catch, The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, and found myself fascinated. She lists a dozen unfamiliar words all of which refer to different types of pre-ferments, mixtures of flour, water and yeast which precede the actual dough in some kinds of breads.
She says, “At first these terms put me off, and I was resolved to avoid them in this book, thinking that the all- encompassing term starter was all I really needed, but gradually these special words became familiar friends. This common language serves not only to distinguish the type of starter but also to connect us to a history and family of bread bakers around the world.”
I agree. Some words are exceptionally cool. Sort of like kids you knew in high school who were not only good at everything they applied themselves to but were also friendly, kind and likeable.
Your average hardworking words like Go, or Thing, or About are like this. Useful, no doubt. In some cases, irreplaceable in their simplicity. They are the basic iceberg lettuce of our conversational salad — not particularly nutritious, infinitely forgettable.
But words like venary, or concentric, or antithesis are the kind of words which you can chew. Mustard green, sun-dried tomato, sourdough sort of words. They fill your mouth with exact flavors. They pull at your teeth, pepper your tongue and compel you to pay attention to their tang and texture.
We need both, of course. There is a place for vague in our speech. The world would be a poorer place without mashed potatoes. Or macaroni and cheese. Or the boring kind of grilled cheese.
But comfort food loses its charm if that’s all we ever eat.
So bring on the levain, the madre blanca, the sponge, the poolish, the altus brat. Because they give our bread and our writing a depth of flavor and make our words ring in the memory like the taste of sourdough on our tongue.
Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. Wednesday is generally book review day. Unless it isn’t. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.