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Bread for Life

October 7, 2005

Baking Bread is like…

  • Hugs
  • A warm scarf on a cold day
  • Tangible goodness in the world
  • Life to partakers
  • Watching the church grow
  • Sweet dustiness
  • Fullness

I love baking bread — maybe even more than actually eating it. It is such a miracle. All real cooking is. There are books written about the chemistry of the cooking process. They’re very enlightened. Funny thing that my great-great-grandmother could mix up a batch of bread with a little yeast, or sourdough starter, completely ignorant of the chemistry involved, but, it worked just the same. Imagine! Perhaps it seemed miraculous, even magical to the ancients; all those unseen reactions that we can explain with scientific terms and precision. But, tradition prevaled, imagination prevaled, and we have hundreds of delicious bread recipes today that bare witness to their skill — in spite of their lack of knowledge.

When Mark and I were married I was already an avid bread baker. Since I didn’t have a wedding planner (not many did in those days) I was coming up with my own ideas. It was to be an evening wedding, and I decided to serve a buffet with homemade breads, cheeses, and sliced, smoked meats. There were also salads, fruits and veggies. For several weeks before the wedding, my sister-in-law-to-be and I made loaves and loaves of homemade breads, breathing in the dusty flour, kneading the bread by hand until our muscles burned with the exertion. All the recipes were from James Beard’s bread cookbook. There was Walnut Onion Bread, Portugese Sweet Bread, Saffron Bread, Pistachio Bread, Buttermilk White Bread, Rye Bread, Whole Wheat Bread, and more! It was a big task since we were expecing 300 or more people. After more time, and flour, than I can recall, the freezer was full, and the wedding was near.

I can’t tell you what anything tasted like. The only thing Mark and I had the entire evening was the one bite of cake we gave each other (photo op) and the one sip of punch (another photo op). We drove away and realized we were parched and starving! However, for weeks after, I was being asked for the recipes of the different breads that were served. A piece of life had been given and received.

Carrying on the wedding bread tradition, but in the mother-of-the-bride role; when my daughter Laura was married, I baked hundreds of whole wheat bread sticks covering them with honey colored sesame, deep brown flax, and blue-grey poppy seeds for the buffett. I also made sure she and Alan sat at a lovely table, lit by candles, and ate some before leaving!

Bread is symbolic in many ways, in many cultures, but it always seems to be connected to life. Those tiny kernels of grain do, indeed, contain life. Each one is full of nutrients needed for health, placed in their tiny containers to provide us with; essential fatty acids, B vitamins, protein, fiber, minerals, and complex carbohydrates. At least, the carbohydrates are complex until we mess with them, and strip the grain down to the naked startch. That’s where the trouble begins. By processing the grain for a longer shelf life, the life-giving nutrients have been removed or destroyed.

To put life back into our lives, choose whole grain breads, pastas, chips, etc. And add supplements like Vitamin E, Tre-En-En Concentrates, and B vitamins. We cannot deny that we live in a rushed culture, and there are the consequences of rushed meals and food preparation. I try to do my best in nourishing my family, but I also believe using high quality supplements is a great way to augment our modern lifestyle. And, let’s be honest, it has many positive aspects too! I really like central air conditioning — especially on bread baking days!

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