Monday, July 2, 2012

Bread....Bringing people together for thousands of years

In Columbus, Ohio last night we had a really bad storm, and there are currently over 100,000 people without power. I happen to be one of them. Oddly, half of our electricity works. I can't quite figure this  out, but I have enough power to blog, and that is good enough for me. I want to take some time to post about bread in more of an abstract sense, rather than just walk through the bread-baking process., I want to speak about it collectively, and in a more "general" and abstract manner.

I have been baking for quite some time, and I have found that I bake bread in two ways. The first way is on my own. This process really enables me to sync in with the process and to almost connect with the dough. There are parts of this process that I truly cherish, especially the bread shaping process. I find that I need to be ready for it, often times taking a few minutes to relax before I get into it. I think that it is very important that the communication between the baker and the dough be one of understanding and acceptance. We all struggle to find our peace in our lives, and I have found that baking solo, is what has brought me the most peace and understanding.

My dear friend, Allison once asked me if I find the bread-baking process therapeutic,  Without batting an eye my response to her was:
"No, I find it spiritual!"

Allison will be guest blogging in a coming post on bagels. Give her your love she is a skilled vegan baker! I would also like to note that the foundation friendship is based on THE BAND, Bob Dylan, records and Walking to temple!

I really do feel that way. Baking bread is the closest that I have come to god and spirituality in my life. For me, there is a connection between work and happiness. It is truly a labor of love. Yes, I enjoy bread, but I enjoy baking bread that much more. When you learn an artform or a skill on your own, with bits and pieces of advice and guidance from experts along the way, it becomes more meaningful. Personally, it reminds me of something my mother said to me over the phone just yesterday. "You've come a long way baby!" I truly owe a lot of my discipline and growth to bread baking. Everything the Dalai Lama stands for is everything a bread baker stands for: understanding, growth, knowledge, a humble meal among friends, tranquility, serenity, and courage.

My reasoning is as follows:
There is an understanding between me and my dough. I always ask myself if I have you taken the bread's needs into consideration, did I fold enough and, were the folds thoughtful and meaningful. Did I take the time to really listen to the language that the dough spoke to me. (I am reminded of a great song by the Grateful Dead, Easy Wind.

"And the river keeps on talking, but you never hear a word it say"

Regarding Growth: You need to ask yourself if you have become a better baker, a better person, a better friend, brother, sister, daughter or mother.

Knowledge: Did you learn something knew today about bread, about yourself, about the universe, about milling or grinding, about composting about making the world a better place for all? There is a significant difference between intelligence and wisdom, and the small amount of wisdom that I have gained in my life, I attribute to bread baking, to the love I have with my family, and to the devotion that I have with my close friends.

Courage: Try new things; try using a soaker; try quick soaking with hot water instead of overnight in cold water. I have done these things and they work and they provides a very soft but heavy crumb. Try making a new starter! Ship it to a friend! Try new things. As Miss Frizzle would say "Get messy, make mistakes" I sure have made mine and I have come to learn that a frustrated baker is a crumby one!

The second kind of bread baking I do is when I share my knowledge with friends. This has a very different feel. It is a completely different act for me. When I bake with others, I have come to realize that it is not soothing and, in fact, can be almost stressful. That being said, it is still very important. If we do not teach others and if we are not taught by others the world will stop evolving. I believe that this is happening to our environment right now. If I may digress briefly, we have stopped listening to Mother Earth. Her lesson plan has gone astray, she needs more time, and we have not made this time for her. We must help her back to a path of sustainment, rather than the path of greed, money and industrialization.

When I do bake with friends, I have so much to share. I have also found that teaching is really difficult. You need excitement, knowledge, understanding, patience and so much more. You need to bring yourself to the level of understanding of your student and you must use a vocabulary that they know and therefore makes sense to them. You need to break things down into smaller steps. This is a lot of work, but it is worth the effort. When your student can make a round roll with one hand, for the first time, and you see the smile on his/her face! The look of accomplishment, you feel that glow, those butterflies disappear as you share your knowledge, the very knowledge that may save the world and even the universe. Although you may think that it is not possible to save the world through bread, I beg to differ. I am saving the world one loaf at a time.

I think it is important that I do both kinds of baking. I like baking with one other person at a time. if there are more than that, I feel stressed and uncomfortable. I think this is because I am in love with the intimacy and I can better share with the bread baking process.


  1. It's lovely to hear your thoughts in this context! Don't forget also the joy of sharing the final product!

    1. I did forget! That is very true! Every loaf I make a bring around to those I care about. And that sharing does really bring added meaning to my day and to my labors.