What’s the difference? That’s a question that has plagued me throughout my life. I think I invite it with my Virgo tendency to believe there is one correct way to do a thing. Is it really so important that T-shirts or underpants or towels be folded one particular way? What’s the difference? Does it really matter if the books on my shelves are sorted both by topic and alphabetically? And will the world stop turning if one is re-shelved out of order? What’s the difference?
I’ve tried to relax. It’s true, most times, that, in the greater scheme of things, my little rules-of-order mean very little. I recently overheard my daughter giving a recipe to her daughter. When she came to the part about thickening a sauce with cornstarch, I wanted to jump into the conversation with, “No, always use flour to thicken a sauce!” I held back, though. It really doesn’t make any difference. Likewise, now that my children are grown, and not perfect, I’ve let go of the idea that there is one right way to raise a child. With caring and love, the particulars are less important. Sometimes, though, rules are there for a reason, and care in following directions makes all the difference. That came clear to me the other day.
I decided to make bread. That decision was born from a need to use up an uninteresting pot of soup that had been sitting for several days in the refrigerator. It wasn’t a bad soup. It had all the right elements for an outstanding soup: two kinds of dried beans, wheat berries, carrot, celery, green pepper, onion and tomatoes. Garlic and spices. A couple shakes of Tabasco sauce. Not bad, but – for some reason – not interesting.
Fresh bread would turn that boring soup into an interesting meal. I thought of it first thing in the morning. I’d make the easy, healthy whole wheat bread that has been my standard go-to bread for more than thirty years. I know the recipe by heart. Start by warming seven and a half cups of whole wheat flour in the oven. I scooped the flour into my metal bowl. Assuming it was a one-half cup measuring cup in the wheat flour canister, I counted out fifteen cupfuls, and put the bowl in the oven, set to a low temperature.
I greased two loaf pans, set the yeast to proof, and measured out the molasses and water. I pulled the bowl from the oven, and combined all of the ingredients. Always a fairly sticky bread, it seemed a little looser than usual. Hmmm. Well, I hadn’t made bread in a while. Between trying to limit my carbohydrates, and trying to avoid using the oven during the heat of the summer, it had been several months since I’d used this recipe. Maybe I was just remembering wrong. After all, I had followed the directions perfectly.
I set the bread to rise, which it did in record time. I put the two loaves in the pre-heated oven to bake. When I checked on it, the bread had spilled over the top of each loaf pan, dripped over the sides, onto the shelves and the oven floor. It was then, finally, that I thought to check. The measuring cup that I used, that I keep stored in the flour canister, was a one-third cup measure, not a one-half cup, as I’d assumed. Ugh!
What’s the difference? Well, beyond the mess in the oven, the hard-to-clean loaf pans, and the sunken loaves that are crumbly and difficult to slice, no difference. The bread did, in fact, make the soup a lot more interesting. Exactly as I planned!