I first baked challah (Shabbat bread) as a little girl
helping my grandmother. She would give me a small piece of dough to knead,
while she worked on the larger portion. Her mound would be shiny and smooth
while mine was crumbly and dull looking. Grandma would send me on an errand to
the living room and when I returned my piece of dough looked as good as hers.
As my skills improved, the errands stopped.
As a young wife, I baked challah for my family and guests, a
tradition I have kept up through the years. My challah is usually delicious,
but only on occasion do I think it looks as good as it tastes. This means that
I am a sucker for braiding techniques and tips (challah is traditionally a
YouTube has been a tremendous boon, since written or even
illustrated instructions for 3, 4 or 6 strand braided loaves tend to be
confusing. With YouTube, I put my
computer within sight and try to get an assistant (does my husband really have
anything more important to do?) to hit
the pause button as needed so that I can keep pace with the video. I actually
can do a pretty decent 6 braided creation at this point, but the quest for the
most aesthetically pleasing challah continues.
When someone posted a link to this video (yes, I know that
the dialogue is in Hebrew, but it is really more of a ‘show’ than a ‘tell’) presenting
a woman producing amazing results with what looked like simple techniques, I
was a goner. Sadly, my husband wasn’t available for ‘pause duty’, but I figured
that I could watch the sequence four or five times and then copy. Not quite.
Trying to follow steps that seemed simple produced some of the least
attractive challahs I have ever made.
Isn’t that often true in life? When we do something truly
well, whether it is braiding challah, running a business, playing tennis or
raising children, people looking from the outside often assume that it is
simple for us, possibly even effortless. Does the person telling me, “You’re so
lucky that your children help in the kitchen,” truly think that my son and
daughters’ skills and desire arose spontaneously? Does the person who resents
his neighbor’s salary truly think that the compensation amount is random and
unrelated to performance?
I don’t know the baker in the video but I am certain that
she has logged many hours perfecting her technique. I think I am on solid
ground assuming that she has invested a fair amount of money in basic supplies,
sighed over failures and probably even sports a kitchen injury or two. She
resisted the temptation of the local bakery, honestly earning her skill set.
When a person, family, business or country seems to function
smoothly and naturally, it’s time for us to pay attention and ask what they did
right, rather than belittling their persistence and perseverance by intoning
luck. Truth be told, while I love baking challah, I am basically happy with my
tasty, slightly unsymmetrical loaves. I
would rather devote the hours needed for mastery towards other activities and
take pleasure in watching the above video to see the seemingly effortless
results of hours of effort.
Is there something in your life for which you labored and
struggled, that leads people to comment on how lucky you are?
*Image copyright Bitsela, used courtesy of www.free-bitsela.com.