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What Bread Can Teach Us About This Season

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San Francisco Giants v St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images

If you asked Colonel Sanders how he made the world’s best fried chicken, he would have laughed at you. The official secret recipe is locked in a safe, signed by Sanders, with 11 herbs and spices next to it.

Ask 3-Star Michelin Chef Christoffer Hruskova how he makes the world’s best bread, and he’ll tell you: flour, figa, sea salt, and water.

Nothing more—ever.

It started at the North Road, the restaurant which led him to Michelin status, by cooking as he described it, “the whole Nordic way”: A Scandinavian inspired menu sourced entirely from local fare.

According to Bob Brooke, the key with creating Nordic food is the ability to re-create the past and yet, many of the recipes used today were never written down but handed down from Viking heritage. Nordic cuisine is humble—bland to the unassuming—delicate, subtle, and crafted with the idea of doing more with less.

So, Hruskova removed flavors that weren’t his. Stopped cooking dishes that were not seasonal. Eliminated ingredients that didn’t natively sprout within the town his restaurant feeds. He created food that was simple yet impossible to forget. The more he subtracted, the more flavorful his dishes became.

After the success of North Road, Hruskova opened a bakery along with Danish baker Per Brun, which sits under the thunderous crash of subway train cars in a tiny corner delightfully named The Bread Station. Sourdough is bagged and bought almost as fast as the oven is opened and closed. Local restaurants place standing orders for fresh loaves. Local patrons sit under a railroad track on metal chairs over concrete swooning over a slice of Hackney Wholemeal and a heap of butter.

But the question that begs to be asked: what makes this bread so much better?

Ingredients to each loaf are on their website. He explains the process. His competitors could literally ask him how he does it, and he will literally tell them.

The mastery is in the process. He mills the flour on stone in his shop, mixes thoroughly with freshly cracked salt, then lets the dough rise at precisely 5 degrees, without yeast in a self-fermentation process that dates back to the Classical period, for twenty hours. Then, what he pulls out of his stone oven is nothing short of a butterfly leaving its cocoon.

“It’s a very drawn out way of working. The dough takes nearly twenty hours to rise before it is baked,” he said to Huck Magazine. “It involves a lot of patience and faith in the process — but it is an amazing privilege to be able to make such a superb product out of flour, water, and salt. I find it a joy every time I do it.”

As we inch closer to the trade deadline, I can’t help but think we are looking for eleven herbs and spices rather than a loaf of Hackney Wholemeal.

According to Five Thirty-Eight, in 2009 there were a little over 150 offseason transactions. In 2016, that number doubled, even hitting a pinnacle of over 400 transactions in 2015. Regular season transactions doubled in that same period, yet trade deadline transactions leveled out after an initial spike.

The new CBA in 2012 removed eligibility for a draft pick if a free agent left the team, making it an arm’s race to unloading free agents before their value plummets. Also, some believe the addition of the second Wildcard made organizations acquire more talent by the trade deadline to be competitive, yet we also see the opposite effect.

If you are a team (enter: Cardinals) on the brink of a playoff berth each year but can’t seem to get over the hump, you will remain in playoff purgatory forever. But the MLB rewards severe incompetence. So once teams realized if they intentionally tank for a half a decade (enter: Astros) the MLB reward the organization—in the name of fairness—with cream of the crop draft talent. So, teams with little hope begin scorched-earth tactics.

Make transactions just to make transactions. Find more ingredients. Buy the latest and greatest spices. If all else fails, scrap it all. Or be stuck being 1-game out of the second Wildcard every year.

But what if the flavor was on the menu the entire time?

For the Cardinals, a playoff spot is very much on the table, but with every step moving forward, the question we need to ask is not who or what we are missing, but are we using the ingredients the way we should?

The lineup has cooled, the pitching is still—hurting—and the front page is covered by Goldschmidt’s struggles and former Cardinal prospect booms (enter: Voit and company), but strip away the noise, and the Cardinals are a damn good ball club. Who knows, they may even have a chance of being the world’s best.