Each of those is absent in galette making. When I do it, I roll out dough (which I often make with oil instead of butter because my husband’s grandmother did and it’s easier) on a piece of parchment paper on a baking pan, and then put fruit mixed with sugar and flour on it, and then fold over some of the dough. It looks done when it is done. The high-wire moves are gone.
So what? I won’t deny that this is only worth so much when our already deeply flawed social order threatens to crumble, when to be plain, we are fighting for our lives. Still, I think the dialing down of performance — in galettes, and in life — carves out space for a kind of sovereignty.
At first, I mean no more seeking solutions to dough that doesn’t transfer easily from one place to another (pastry fabric? a different rolling pin? a different recipe?). At second glance I also mean exiling the specter of failure that dominates so much of our culinary discourse. Without all that there’s freedom to focus simply on our own purring internal engines — the contents of our kitchens, and our appetites, and all the other things that are real and that really matter. Post yours to Instagram if you like, but what are you saying? There’s so little to be proved in baking a galette.
Is there a chance galette bakers have stopped caring so much what others think — that like me, they’ve lost the impulse to perform? Are the people reading recipes for and baking galettes really a signal that amid this catastrophic year, we are finally unraveling years of being urged toward new pastry tools and new recipes and a peacocky presentation of leisure time and skill?
I got an email about galettes from the writer Maya Kosoff, who’d heard I was thinking about them. She has been baking galettes. She wrote me: “Something about the whole process — making the dough, prepping the fruit filling, and crucially, cobbling it all together in a freeform, standalone mess on a baking sheet and sticking it in the oven, crossing my fingers it doesn’t make too much of a mess or burn too much fruit juice onto my roommate’s baking sheet — feels like an on-the-nose metaphor for the year.”
Maybe what feels hopeful is galettes as an on-the-nose metaphor for the year. We persist in trying to make things, even with the inherent messiness of no container but the material itself. Maybe it’s not about sustaining a reduced impulse to look in the mirror all the time, or rejecting the mendacity of corporate marketing, pushing more stuff on us. Maybe it’s more just people saying, in the absence of even a modicum of predictability: The container never mattered. We will do it, dammit, without the container. We will make something of this god-awful time yet.