I make bread every couple of days, sometimes by hand, sometimes in my trusty Panasonic bread machine. Even in the machine, however, results are hard to duplicate. Every loaf is different. Today's olive bread, for example, usually easy to make, would not rise properly.
It's hard to say why, because bread making is a combination of several disciplines: biology (getting the yeast to grow), chemistry (getting all the ingredients to react well), physics (the perfect amount of kneading) and thermodynamics (using heat correctly to bake the whole concoction).
But there is also a metaphysical dimension, which gives bread its place at the centre of so much religious thought, a magical laying-on-of-hands and coming-to-life which transforms inanimate ingredients into the very staff of life.
The whole kitchen feels different (to me, at least) when bread is rising. There is an expectant hush. A risen loaf is a gleaming, swollen, fertile thing, like the belly of a pregnant woman. And of course, the triumphant smell of freshly-baked bread is glorious.
All this means that I can't simply throw a failed loaf away. It has to be eaten, whether good or bad, because it is what it is.
So I will reflect on these things as I munch my olive bread tonight, and hope to do better tomorrow.