The recipe for a meaningful life is complex. It includes obvious ingredients like starting a career or a family. But, following the guidelines to a T isn’t enough; adjustments need to be made along the way to find true meaningfulness.
Cynthia Kinahan learned this through trial and error, leading to the creation of her and her husband Bill Foscato’s now blossoming bakery and café, Pawling Bread Co.
Feeling “a bit dissatisfied” with her job as a graphic designer, Kinahan took up pottery classes. When classes were canceled one day, she decided to grab ingredients to make a loaf a bread instead, as both tasks were tactile and therapeutic in nature. While this first attempt was an “utter failure,” explains Kinahan, she attempted it every day after work until she got it right.
“One night I didn’t look at the recipe, and that was the first time I felt like it clicked,” she says. “I was hooked.”
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To Kinahan, breadmaking is more than just a formula. You have to let the dough talk you through what it needs, making slight adjustments throughout the process based on how things like ambient temperature, water temperature, and the temperature of your ingredients affect the dough.
“The formula is always a great little guideline, but the rest of the journey, and breadmaking really is a journey, is all about feeling what the dough needs.”
From there, Kinahan started experimenting with sourdough loaves, partly under the tutelage of Gerard Rubaud, a Vermont-based, French baker with extensive sourdough experience. This is now what Pawling Bread Co. specializes in, crafting everything from their standard white, sesame-rye, and flaxseed loaves to sought-after creations like cherry walnut, raisin caraway, sun-dried tomato, and roasted garlic and rosemary loaves.
The village café and bakery has quickly risen in popularity since Kinahan’s early days selling bread at area farmers’ markets, largely thanks to its small-town vibes and homey atmosphere that Pawling locals and visitors settle in to chat about their daily lives.
Along with her naturally leavened baked goods, Kinahan serves wholesome breakfast and brunch items, often infused with Asian and southeast Asian flavors, like the Georgetown Breakfast named after the capital city of Penang, an island in Malaysia where Kinahan was born and raised.
This year, the café is expanding its hours to offer late-night drinks and bites. Creating a place to gather and eat quality food for her Pawling neighbors has brought Kinahan, a Pawling resident herself, a renewed sense of purpose.
“What I realized I was missing in my old job was work that had meaning, and I feel that what I’m doing now has given me meaning,” says Kinahan.