Art Update: My Dad's Birthday

I was grieving yesterday; my neighbors brought moments of joy. Then, I made flatbread.

Vlog: Art Update


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Transcript

[Humming]

Hey there family, comrades, and neighbors. It's Jason Wyman here with another art update.

I've been really struggling with whether or not I was going to create an art update this week. Tomorrow is my father's birthday, and it is the first birthday without him. And grief has been really heavy with me today. (At the time of publishing this Art Update, his birthday is today.)

I've had an incredible July so far, where I have been creating and working with people through Art Camp. And it has been incredibly healing and has been brought me a lot of joy. (Some would say overjoyed!)

And even amidst that joy there's grief.

I've been trying to really lean into holding my grief or just experiencing my grief or allowing my grief to be. Sometimes that's taken the form of literally trying to take a nap for the fourth time today. Or earlier it was going for a walk, deciding to try to pick myself up and take myself out because one of the things that I love about San Francisco is that San Francisco, when you get out into it takes care of you in some ways. Not always. I don't want to say that for all people, but for me, when I've been able to get out into the streets and walk around, it's always saved me in some ways in the past especially when I'm heavy in my depression or anxiety.

Today, I did those things—trying to let it be, taking that nap, and going for that walk. And each step of the way, each step in the process, each step in life feels heavy. As I walked through the neighborhood though some odd things happened, some things that I can notice today in ways that maybe I wasn't able to notice previously.

As I was walking back home from the farmer's market—I went and got some vegetables because we still need to eat—I was walking down 22nd street from mission towards my house, and I just started running into people. I ran into a woman that I used to serve when I was a barista at Progressive Grounds who smiled at me and said hello. I ran into a stranger who was incredibly friendly and incredibly vivacious, and we exchanged pleasantries on the corner of 22nd and Bryant. As I made my way down one of the smaller streets towards 21st, I ran into my neighbor from down the block, and we chatted as we walked slightly home together. Each one of these encounters with my neighbors is something that, in that moment, did bring me joy. I actually was able to find that moment where that smile was genuine when I greeted the stranger. It was delightful to walk a single block with my neighbor down the street.

And as those moments passed, I found myself engulfed in grief, yet again; I'm in grief right now as I'm trying to record this.

I’m gonna try to do some more things that I know are healing for me. Cooking is one of those things that is always healing, so I'm about to head into the kitchen get my hands messy with some yogurt and yeast and flour, make some homemade pita, cook some things up. I also need to remember what John said to me when I called him on my way home.

He told me, “Jason, it's okay to just be in grief. Sometimes grieving is the healing.”

So if I don't make the pita and get my hands dirty the way I love to get my hands dirty, and if I decide to crawl back under the covers that's what I'm going to do. I do have the privilege to do so right now, which means I have the privilege to actually grieve in the way that my body needs to grieve. I need to take that privilege and use it. Who knows when I'm gonna have this opportunity again? Life's too short to really know; I must take it now.

Thank you for tuning in, for watching, for caring not just for me but for your neighbors.

One thing that I really want you to take away from today and from the story that I'm sharing right here and right now is not just a story of privilege—the privilege of being able to grieve—[it] is also a story of neighbors.

I still may be in my grief; I also still have my neighbors. And I can find moments of joy with them just like I can find moments of joy with my comrades and my family.

Thank you for tuning in ciao for now.

[Humming.]


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Jason’s Alchemical Flatbread Recipe

Introduction

I ended up making flatbread yesterday. The first dough I made didn’t turn out so good. So I made another. And, well, wow!

This recipe is based on about a dozen different recipes I’ve made since COVID began. I’m unsure what to call it exactly. It’s born of my grief and intuition. I had to sacrifice a whole dough for it to rise. While making it, I mourned and cried. Upon eating it, I was delighted.

So I’m calling it Jason’s Alchemical Flatbread. And here’s the recipe.

Ingredients

  • grief / sorrow / depression / heartache / melancholy / despair / nostalgia / longing

  • time & space

  • a mess, a broom, a dust pan, a garbage bin, a sponge, and soap

  • 2 * 3 cups flour ( I used unbleached all purpose flour)

  • 2 * 2 teaspoons salt

  • 2 * 1 1/2 teaspoons yeast

  • 2 * 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 2 * 1/4 cup warm water

  • 2 * 1/4 cup oil (I used grapeseed)

  • 2 * 1 cup yogurt (X2)

  • 2 * 1/4 to 1/2 cup water

  • Semolina or corn meal or flour, for dusting

Directions

Feel all of your feels. Let them be. Start only when you want to start. Take a nap, if desired. Scream, if needed. Sob and collect your tears, if helpful. In the words of Law Roach from Legendary, “Do what needs to be done.”

Only when you are ready, move to the kitchen. Remember, you can always stop and leave your mess. It can be cleaned up later.

This recipe calls for two doughs to be made; one of which will be sacrificed.

Start by measuring out about 3 cups of flour and adding about 2 teaspoons of salt. It doesn’t matter if you fuck up here. Set aside.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, add 1/4 cup warm water, 1 1/2 teaspoons yeast, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Set aside and let it bubble. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t bubble. Use it anyway. This dough will be shit.

Add 1/4 cup oil to the yeast and then pour it into the flour. Mix.

Add 1 cup of yogurt and mix. Kneed gently or aggressively. Add in water to your heart’s content. It could be dry or sticky or even soupy. It doesn’t matter. Make a mess of your workspace, your hands, and your life. Pour everything into the dough.

Set it aside and let it rise for at least an hour. Do something else. Whatever you want, need, or desire. Let your mess ferment.

Once moved, go back to your shitty dough. Look at it. Touch it. Scream at it. Curse it.

Then, throw it the fuck away.

Start again.

Measure out 3 cups of flour and add 2 teaspoons of salt. Be a bit more precise here. It’s ok, though, if it isn’t completely accurate.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, add 1/4 cup warm water, 1 1/2 teaspoons yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar. It should bubble in three to five minutes. If it doesn’t, start again. Only move on if the yeast is active. You want this dough to turn out.

Once it is bubbling, add 1/4 cup oil to the yeast. Then, pour it into the flour and gently stir. It should be like course crumbs, or thereabouts.

Add in 1 cup of yogurt and incorporate. You don’t want to over kneed the dough here. You do want to handle it enough to know how wet or dry it is. If it feels moist, you will only be adding in a little bit of water. If it feels dry, you will need more water.

Slowly add in between 1/4 cup to 3/4 cup water. You will want to kneed the dough here to fully incorporate the water, yogurt, yeast, oil, and flour. The final dough should feel fluffy, silky, and soft, and it should not stick to your hands. If you put in too much water, slowly and gently add a dusting of flour and kneed. Let your hands do all the work.

Once the dough is fluffy, silky, and soft, let it sit and rise for at least 60 minutes or until doubled in size. Make sure you cover the dough with plastic wrap or a terrycloth towel.

Heat the over to 450 degrees. Grab a cast iron skillet or another heavy bottomed pan. Put it in the oven. (I turned my cast iron upside down.) Let it all heat up.

Clean up your mess with the broom, dust pan, garbage bin, sponge, and soap.

Cut the dough into 8 pieces. It’s ok if they aren’t the same size. Set 7 of the pieces aside and cover.

Form a ball with the one piece left out. Sprinkle it generously with semolina, corn meal, or flour. Then, flatten it into about a 1/3- to 1/2-inch thick disk. Dust it again.

Cover it and set it aside for about 10 minutes. Work on your other pieces while it is rising, setting aside each one to rise. It’s ok if they rise for longer than 10 minutes.

Once the oven and pan are hot and the dough has risen slightly, throw it on the hot pan. Bake for 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Using a tongs, flip it over and bake for another 2 minutes. It should be golden with some darker spots. If there are no darker spots, keep it in the oven for about 90 seconds. Remove from the oven.

Bake the remaining disks in the same way.

Clean up your mess again.

Serve, eat, and enjoy.

I served mine with green curried chickpeas, tomato and fennel salad, roasted cabbage, and labneh. It also goes great with pretty much anything.

Photo

Image description: a photo of the flatbread I made yesterday after I recorded the Art Update. It is fluffy and golden with spots of dark brown where the dough touched the cast iron more directly. It is dusted with semolina.


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