Ever since we started working from home, learning how to bake bread became an enjoyable new SIP hobby for many of us. I was one of the zest followers.
I baked my first bread, and I waited almost zero minutes to share with my teammates, who happen to have a meeting with me.
“Looks nice.” The lead said.
That was somewhere in late March.
Five no-knead bread and six sourdoughs had gone by.
Now looking back at that first bread I baked, I am very grateful for my lead’s politeness and encouragement.
It was an ugly baby.
One day while the sixth sourdough was in the process of being consumed, I suddenly had a revelation — I should use the same technique to make Chinese steamed buns.
That moment I got so excited, I felt that my joy was almost as grand as what I read from the biography as when Maire Curie realized that she was on the way to discover the two new chemical elements.
The last time I made Chinese steamed buns was when I was a pre-teen tomboy girl enduring (actually enjoying) China’s K12 (actually K10) years-long SIP days at the end of the cultural revolution.
One winter, the older kids I followed every day were in a mood of making steamed buns.
There was no recipe nor any precise measurement descriptions nor even notes to be taken from. Everything was the word of mouth and standby, watching and taking mental notes. And the elder kids learned the tricks from their parents or grandparents.
My dad was in a rural factory inventing all kinds of agricultural machinery. My mom was busy with her day and night political (bible) studies on the campus. I was the kitchen princess, and my mom and my baby brother just ate whatever I put on the table.
If all my idolized older kids were making steamed buns, so should I.
I lost memory of the process of how I made it. But I still vaguely remember the moment when I lifted the cover of the steamer and all the hot moist air raised, and I looked through the steam, eager to check the puffiness of the buns.
The puffiness of the final buns defined the mastery of the skill of making the Chinese steamed buns.
My buns were never the best looking nor the puffiest ones. Like many of my other culinary/knitting/papercutting/flower-drawing copycat results from the older kids, mine was always near the worst looking ones.
“It’s ok. You have better grades than them.” My mom would always brush off my disappointment. And she would always add comments like “my observation is that all these girls who are champing in these skills end up with bad grades in school.”
Now looking back, my mom had been very shrewdly brainwashing me even when entire China was still near the end of the propaganda phase of “intellectuals are the most dangerous enemies of the common people.”
So I quickly abandoned the Chinese steamed buns and moved on to making cured meat and vegetables, and planting our vegetables and raising our hens and roosters.
Fast forwarded to this day, after playing with the dough for a dozen times, I suddenly realized the baking principles are the same.
And I should be ok to bring this sourdough back to my childhood memory and make a home run.
After two tries and watched two youtube video clips, I finally made it right.
It took almost fifty years to bring it home.
I should thank SIP for that.