6 years ago, I ate copious amounts of Mallorca bread on a vacation to Puerto Rico. Each morning, our family of 5 would walk across the street from the hotel to a little breakfast dive called Pinky’s. There we’d order thin & icy peanut butter smoothies, Mallorca breakfast sandwiches, and café con leche, filling up for a day of hiking, swimming, and obligatory pool lounging.
Within a year of that trip, my 18-year marriage had ended. I remember my youngest son and I having a gutting cry one night about how he never wanted to go down the slide at the hotel pool in Puerto Rico ever again. At his little age, he likened the thrill of the pool slide to our best family memories. He was adamant he didn’t want to relive them…ever, ever again. He articulated many things that I hadn’t been able to during that late-night cry session. Mostly that, I too had silently agreed somewhere along the way there were things about Puerto Rico I couldn’t revisit anymore. Café con leches would have to go. And that billowy Mallorca bread.
There were many months and years that followed in which I walked a long journey through grief after divorce. And I’m sensing I am on a journey of loss and disappointment that grief brings once again as COVID clocks in its first year. I wonder if you are too.
Grief is defined as great sorrow. Sorrow has been prevalent for us in unexpected ways this year, hasn’t it? Maybe you had a grandchild born this year and social-distancing has kept you from bonding with them the way you always dreamed you’d be able to. Or the loan you hoped you would get for your first business was put on indefinite hold as the world shut down. Your destination wedding was canceled. You had to start dipping into your retirement accounts to pay the bills. You weren’t able to see your kid walk across the graduation stage. Your first year of college life became online school. You lost your company. You lost your job. You lost your marriage. Your parent died alone in the hospital. And, in these things you sense great loss. Great sorrow. Deep grief.
When my mom passed away from suicide at the end of 2018, a friend gave me a book about grief. The writer seemed to guide me in a way in which I felt my hand was literally being held as I not only walked through grief but out of it. I learned the tools of honoring the past while starting anew. I picked up his book again this week as I feel those same feelings sucking at my soul that I felt through divorce and death. While I have no finite answers about disappointment and loss, what I can say is…for me in this unending season of COVID, it’s time to make Mallorca bread again.
The pillow-soft bread might be a silly analogy, but as my fingers synchronized this week through their dough-kneading routine, the making of Mallorca symbolized a stake in the ground to do something about the season I’m currently in. To do something other than avoidance, worry, and fret – to change the current story around lost dreams, lost financial investment, lost moments with our community, lost team members, lost partnerships, and lost revenue because of this pandemic. I am not sure just yet how the second year of the bakery will play out just yet for our future. So much is still unknown. And while most days I feel raw and overwhelmed with confusion, as the Mallorca cooled, the kids came in and out of the kitchen, nibbling and remarking about how much it reminded them of Pinky’s. And I smiled and agreed as an ever-so-small feeling of lightness returned that day.
I wonder for all of us if we can harness some of that goodness COVID has been stealing away and build on that. If so, we may have a chance to make what we’re grieving just a little more bearable, perhaps even memorable.
Maybe you begin recording those zoom calls with the growing grandbaby and replay them for years to come. Could be that you take the original business plan and turn it on its head to create a more profitable path than you originally imagined. Or you take the money saved from a canceled destination wedding and put a down payment on your first home. Or, find gratitude in savoring just a few more homemade meals before you head into the world of dorm-room-ramen.
I don’t want us to postpone life while we wait for COVID to end. I don’t want our story to be that the pandemic stole from us. Rendered us shells of ourselves. Made it so that we lost our joy.
It’s definitely easier said than done.
The bakery continues to sit empty and that feels like a huge postponement of dreams and ideals for this space of do-gooding and good eating. As we wait, I forge ahead. Usually begrudgingly. I plan. I pivot and scheme. I dream and dream and dream up ways to inject more love through intentionality to this city of ours. And I bake.
“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
Mallorca Bread : recipe slightly tweaked from this:
1 pkg dry yeast (1/4 oz)
1/2 cup milk, lukewarm
1 1/2 cup water, lukewarm
8 egg yolks
3/4 cup white sugar
2 sticks butter (1/2 lb.) + 1 stick for brushing, melted and cooled to lukewarm
6 cups bread flour, plus more for flouring work surface
1 teaspoon salt
powdered sugar for dusting
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine, eggs, sugar, and melted butter, whisk until well combined. In another large bowl pour in milk and water, sprinkle in the yeast, and let sit until the yeast activates.
Add yeast mixture to egg mixture and whisk until well combined. In a large bowl whisk together salt and flour.
Add flour mixture to the egg mixture one cup at a time, using a dough hook attachment. Mix until dough just comes together. Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead until tacky.
**Note, you can also do this step by hand. No stand mixer is needed.
Transfer to a bowl and cover with a kitchen cloth and let rise on the counter for 2 hours or until it doubles in size. The dough can also be refrigerated and rise overnight.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Line two lightly colored (try to avoid dark sheet pans for this) aluminum sheet pans with parchment paper. Generously flour a clean work surface, turn the dough out on a work surface, sprinkle with flour. Cut the dough into 12 even pieces. Roll the dough pieces into ropes and shape the ropes into coiled buns, tucking the end under the bun.
Place 6 rolls per sheet pan, loosely cover with a kitchen towel, and let rise another 45 minutes. Using a pastry brush gently brush rolls with melted butter. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until they are just beginning to brown. If you have a kitchen thermometer, check that the temperature has reached 190 degrees.
Allow buns to cool, sift generously with powdered sugar. Eat with a cup of cafe con leche if you have the chance. Keeps well overnight and makes the perfect bun for a next-day sandwich.