When Fleischmann’s is sucking hard on the tits of warm water in a small china bowl, the soft swampyness fills the air and I buzz about the kitchen drunk on it, feeling like I’m on my tippi-toes. I love the smell of yeast. I love the smell of yeast so much I wish there was a Fleischmann’s dry active perfume I could drench myself in. I realize that a yeast perfume may not be so desirable for females—who would want an olfactory reminder of candidiadis? (As pretty as it sounds, a yeast infection is still and always a yeast infection.)
Not having a vagina, I guess I would want to stink of yeast all the time. Though I kind of have a bread fetish, I always thought it was about the carb addiction, not the yeast (duh). I didn’t realize how much I love the fume of yeast itself until last week, when I made doughnuts:
1) Stir together the following in a big bowl: 1 cup milk, scalded and cooled; ½ cup of sugar; 1 tablespoon melted butter; a fairy pinch of salt. In a small bowl, stir 1 packet (0.175 oz) active dry yeast into ¼ cup warm water and let stand for 10 minutes or until till foamy-bubbly.
2) Stir yeast mixture into milk mixture. Blend in 1 beaten egg. Mix in 3 ½ cup of flour, about a ½ cup at a time, till a soft slightly sticky dough forms. Cover the bowl and let rise in a warm place (sunny veranda is ideal) until dough is doubled. About two hours.
3) Heat about an inch of oil in deep pan or skillet to 370 degrees. If you don’t have a cooking thermometer, then heat oil no more than 10 minutes on high heat: oil shouldn’t be too hot, because then the doughnuts will brown too quickly into burnt. Watch the oil...in 1997, I left heating oil while frying chicken and the whole kitchen caught fire. Fry pieces of dough in hot oil. Each piece should be about a handful, handrolled to a vaguely flat shape. With my handspan, this recipe yielded 20 doughnuts. Don’t make it too flat or the skin of the doughnut will pop away from its flesh. Turn once so it is golden brown on both sides. Do not fry for too long—about 10 seconds per side will do otherwise it will char. Have faith in the oil and dough to cook flesh of doughnut through.
Filling the kitchen with yeast-fume wasn’t me trying to become some regressive stereotype of a housewife; it was a weird act of remembering my father.
My father is still alive; we just haven’t spoken to one another for a few years. I don’t really want to go into the specific details of why my parents divorced, and why my sister and I are not particularly close to him. Instead, I’ll just give you a passage from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, in which Alcott describes the March sisters’ patriarch. This is what my father was NOT:
“A quiet, studious man, rich in the wisdom that is better than learning, the charity which calls mankind ‘brother,’ the piety that blossoms into character, making it august and lovely....These attributes, in spite of poverty and the strict integrity which shut him out from the more worldly successes, attracted him to many admirable persons, as naturally as sweet herbs draw bees, and as naturally he gave them the honey into which fifty years of hard experience had distilled no bitter drop.”
Let’s just say that the only thing my father and the father of the heroines of Little Women have in common was their being shut out from more worldly successes. When I used to read Little Women as a kid, I longed to be Meg (my sister is so Amy) and I longed to have a gentle honey-father like Mr. March. My father was not defined by his gentleness. But the best and softest memory I have of him is that of his making doughnuts for us. In Seoul, Korea, when I was around five or so, my father, though overeducated, was unemployed. So he would hang out and help out his younger brother, who at that time ran a gourmet doughnut shop in a fashionable district of town. My father would then come home and make us the yummiest doughnuts using the tricks he’d learned at his brother’s store. I talked to my mother about this memory recently, and she who never has a good thing to say her ex-husband brought out an unexpected sweet: “How did he make those doughnuts so delicious? Those doughnuts were so good. I ate so many of them.”
I’m not sure why I’m thinking about my father now. Maybe because Saturn is finally leaving Virgo after three years. Maybe because as I get older, I’m recognizing aspects of my parents in myself. Despite her bad qualities, I have no qualms about turning into my mother. On the other hand, I felt like I spent my twenties trying like hell to avoid becoming anything like my father. However, as my mother says, you cannot deceive blood. So as much as I want to deny it, I see parts of my father in myself. I did inherit, among other things, his slackness, his short legs, his nonchalance with money, his penchant for pacing, his love of frying yeasty batter. So maybe I am turning into a version of my father after all. But hopefully, a better version, because there is one all-important difference between us: I don’t hate women. All of my father’s bitterness and anger can be traced back to his deep-seated distrust and hatred of women. My father made doughnuts for us but he hated the hole in the doughnut. I can’t remember how yeasty his doughnuts were—I have absolutely no scent sense-memory of them. I just know that my doughnuts are super-yeasty, and that’s the way I like them.