While individual experiences of the whole Kneading Time A-lab varied, the twelve participants followed a similar process. We started out carefully with the first touch of the dry flour turning into focused movements with the ingredients sticking to the hands. Blending encourages us to blur the separation between ourselves and the ingredients, replacing the subject/object dichotomy with a conception of relations between self and other that focuses on their interconnections (Heldke in Curtin & Heldke 1992). Sebastien Boudet has named his way of blending ’La Fontaine’ since he starts with a pile of flour, which forms the walls of a circular pool; ’La Fontaine’. As soon as we stuck our hands in ’La Fontaine’ and started moving, the ingredients grasped us through the haptics of the sticky paste.
Water, salt and starter were carefully poured into La Fontaine, and we let our hands sink into the pool. Our rhythmic circular movements made the ingredients come together and slowly dissolve the flour pool. By incorporating more and more flour, the sticky paste transformed into a firm dough. As soon as our hands started moving around, the chemical process began and the ingredients transformed, accompanied by soggy sounds.
Sebastien: We are not going to knead the bread, not work, we will only connect with the ingredients. It is important to make it [‘La Fontaine’] big enough and the borders even. Otherwise the water will break the flour wall and fall on your feet and on the floor.
You-Le: I like the part where it feels a bit messy in the beginning, like, it grows and it’s texture is sticky and slimy and sludgy and you don’t know when this is gonna get ready. But when it starts to dry and it starts to smoothen up… and no one needs to really tell you that it is good, but you sort of feel that it’s the right texture. So when it starts to detach from your hand, starts to feel less disgusting, or less sticky or less slimy and when it starts to build. You feel that it’s the right thing.
Sebastien told Cheryl, who had blended a very firm and dry dough to add some water to loosen up the texture. After adding water, she moved her hands through the slimy paste. She squeezed and pressed it between her fingers, it hissed and splashed. Time, in the baking process, is a matter of how long the bread is baked in the oven. During all the proceeding phases of making sourdough bread, it is possible to reverse or pause the process of time as a feature of the overall property, by kneading, adding water or flour or removing water to dry the dough.
Sebastien: When you get to the right texture, a kind of body-texture, then you stop pulling flour into the doughand, to compare, you put your apron on it and when you put your hand on it, it should feel like (human) body.
Another participant’s (P7) reaction to blending related to the emotional sense of being interconnected through blending. He seemed to feel as if the dough became a part of his own body, guiding his attention to his own movements together with the dough — not as separate entities.
P 7: I connect this to my work where I talk a lot about focus. When we form the flour as a circle and pour the water into it and work it together, it means that I collect and focus my thoughts into one point. To focus oneself and not jump between tasks is very positive. Then we use our forces in a good way. It feels like a way of directing focus. It seems like we are more harmonic when we don’t get stuck in introversion. The dough works like an anchor outside of oneself. Not too far though. You need to be in contact with the dough.
The participant Maria, also reflected upon the blending as something that helped her focus herself. She felt how the rhythmic movements in the process made her feel as if coming together as a whole:
Maria: I have a deadline which means I am mentally stuck and, in a way, I think to do something out of… it is more rational to calm down, to move from frustration mode to flow mode. I don’t have to think… So that means it feels like your body and mind comes together by doing things [like baking] intuitively.
To sense time, we placed our hands on the dough to test the firmness. The firm dough told us the blending task was done and it was time for it to rest. Afterwards, we forcefully kneaded it, and enjoyed moments of delight, caressing the soft cool dough as it was formed into a loaf; touching and holding time. We squeezed, pressed, held on to, stretched, pushed fingers into the dough and heard the sounds of thumping. We lived a timeframe dictated by the interconnectedness between person and dough, baker and ingredients, user and artifact. This kind of interconnectedness can also be found in music performers that transform with their instruments and sense their instrument as an extension of themselves (Kosmack Vaara 2017, Nijs 2017, Serres in Pallasmaa 2009). Accordingly, Yvonne Förster-Beuthan (2012) suggests that time is an interpretation based on interaction or entanglement between a subject and an object. Therefore, experience of time within the digitalized world can vary with our relationship to technology.