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Week 42: "The Long and the Short of It"

Daniel Barash

Making challah takes time! There is no getting around this fact. Granted, it takes a lot less time than when we started this journey ten months ago. At the beginning, every step of the process received the utmost attention, from which ingredients were going into which bowl, to the temperature of the warm water for the yeast, to the braiding, to the restings and risings, you get the picture. All this seemed to take up not only a lot of actual time, but also a great amount of mental energy.

But then a strange happened. As the months passed, we established a rhythm, sort of like a choreographed dance; but instead of a highly choreagraphed dance, which includes the precision and exactitude that I thought challah-baking required, this dance has room for spontaneous steps, changing tempos, and a little (or a lot!) of messiness.

But as I said, there is no getting around the fact that even if this task at hand takes less time, and is now a natural weekly ritual, it still requires intention and planning, over the course of many hours. Which is one of the reasons why I’ve appreciated it as a new practice; as much as we like to schedule our lives with quick little complete tasks that can be checked off before moving on to something else, the various steps of baking a challah (the assembling of ingredients, the rising and waiting, the braiding, the rising and waiting again, and finally, the baking) requires us to creatively manage our time, going in and out of the “challah zone” over the course of many hours. While originally somewhat stressful, I again now welcome the challenge of creatively structuring my schedule to accommodate both challah-making and the rest of my life!

Enter Marc Kornblatt, a Madison filmmaker who has recently expanded my notions of time, and what can be accomplished in greater or lesser amounts of it! For on a recent visit to my hometown, when I was set to conduct a Challah-it-Forward program at Arboretum Cohousing, Marc asked if he could make a short movie about the experience. I didn’t know exactly what this would entail, but as this seemed like an exciting opportunity, I readily agreed.

During the actual program, I was so focused on teaching that I barely noticed that Marc was there. But there he was, taking hundreds of shots, both moving images and stills. And then, literally by that evening, he had sent me the rough cut of a 5-minute film!

Before the first viewing, I was honestly a little suspicious; how can a movie lasting only a few minutes capture this experience in its entirety, both the time-consuming act of making the bread, and the ever-growing meanings behind it, gleaned over many months!

And then I pushed “play,” and was pleasantly surprised; as I mentioned in Week 40, Marc’s creative use of shots both near and far, creative splicing, narrative structure, and informal storytelling really did tell a compelling yarn. It’s not the whole story of course (as if this were even possible!), but in a mere five minutes, it beautifully illustrates the essence of the baking process, the journey that our family is partaking, the travelers that we’re meeting along the way, and the magic and mayhem that is integral to this entire experience!

And if that weren’t miraculous enough, he made a one-minute film trailer, which is of course only a teaser, much like the smell of a fresh challah is no substitute for a taste of the real thing. I offer you this for now, with the promise of letting you know when and where you might view “Challah It Forward: The Movie!” in the near future.

A good week to all…