bread and meat

by john

i’ve been thinking about the things I’m doing. i actually try to do it so that i can write about it after i do them.

in the morning, i ate two bananas for breakfast. if there’s one thing there isn’t a shortage of here, it’s bananas. everywhere i go i see bananas. i can’t walk for five minutes without seeing a banana tree. they taste good, but also smell pretty bad when they start rotting. perhaps i’ll write a poem about bananas in the future. i’ve probably eaten some kind of banana-based food every day i have been here. i may get sick of them soon. the point is, i ate two bananas for breakfast.

then, i started making bread with subeer. we started last night, creating the “base mix” by mixing whole wheat with yeast and water. this morning we measured out the proper amounts. the number of cockroaches i saw in the bakery alarmed me, as well as the little baby cockroaches. there isn’t any hot water or soap to wash things with. maybe we are too clean. it seems that the human body can tolerate a certain amount of bacteria and pathogens.

we added some refined white flour to the whole wheat dough. whole wheat has certain sharp particles that cut the gluten in the dough in half, so it’s easier to have more white flour than whole wheat flour to keep the dough elastic.

we then used a machine to knead the dough. the machine is pretty powerful, and i imagine if you stuck any bodily appendage in there it would probably hurt. if the kneading was done by a human, it would probably take a big muscular dude to do it (hence in my mind bakers are now super muscular, strong men). after that was done, we let the dough rest for a while and to let the yeast do its work. the dough can get pretty big and it’s very fun to slap. you can a nice “SLAP”-ing sound when you slap it, like hitting a fat behind.

then came the process by which you release the air in the dough. you stick your fingers in there and make holes. you also flip the dough so different parts of the dough get to rise. i worked with a 12kg dough. it doesn’t seem like much, but if you are doing a lot of them, you would probably get strong pretty fast.

then came the baking. before there were non-stick pans, before baking paper there were cast iron moulds and oil. and also a lot of cleaning and washing as the dough tends to stick to the moulds after baking. this meant that i had to clean a lot of stuff. note to self: remember to clean dough off utensils before it hards (it becomes hard and sticks to whatever surface).

and the bread was complete. bread is good. it is tasty and nutritious (if you use whole wheat).

we finished early so i headed out to town on a half broken bike. the brakes were not functional so i had to stop the bike using my boots. a kindly man and a store pumped up my tires and gave me directions to the nearest bike store. when i reached the bike store i asked to fix the brakes and how much it would cost. a man came a long and fixed the front brake in a minute at no cost. i think people try to be good.

i then went to a vietnamese food store i saw before. i then thought about how good it would feel to have a bowl of beef pho. is there anything wrong with eating meat? what of the ethical concerns? after eating vegetarian food for several days, i really wanted to eat meat. i suppose it’s understandable why people would want to meat. it’s a luxury, really.

in hong kong however i feel that we eat a lot of meat. every meal includes some type of meat product. aside from being bad for the environment, much of our meat is produced in factory farms. animals are subject to unliveable conditions. on one hand however, factory farming reduces greenhouse gas emissions. on the other hand it causes disease and many farms discriminately use antibiotics to “help” the animals grow faster, produce more eggs and milk. there are many videos. the way we raise animals for meat could do with some improvement.

then i thought about how many of the problems of the city come from overcrowding. why do we use so much electricity? we have too much concrete and the land absorbs too much heat, so we have to turn on air conditioning. why do we not separate our waste? there is no space and the waste transport service is too convenient. why do we work so hard and spend it all so quickly? we don’t create our own food. we have not labored and sweated for our sustenance. it seems that we do “knowledge work”, but what are we actually doing? it’s so small. you watch a device project images at you, and you react to it. of course, i know i am generalizing, but i know that many jobs in hong kong are of a similiar nature. apparently all of this is in pursuit of money, so you can spend it on more luxurious goods. as if some goods are more “luxurious” than others.

there is also the rampant selling of “lifestyle” that gets on my nerves. every day i see some type of advertisement that proclaims to make you better, feel happier, be accepted by society more, be more attractive. if we didn’t spend so much time in a sedentry lifestyle perhaps we wouldn’t need these products. perhaps if we ate better we would not need so many gyms and beauty products. luxury goods are a lie. they are a slap in the face for many people on this earth.

i cycled home and passed a temple. i arrived at the volunteer quarters and started writing.

i am listening to the tones of miles davis, with the sound of cicadas and the warm evening air making me sweat slightly. for now, i don’t need anything else. there is one thing i want though. one person in particular :).