I have two favorite quotes about…
What? Any guesses?…
The answer is bread. I have two favorite quotes about bread. The first is from a hip old British dude name William Cobbett. (Check him out. Ruffle shirt, a radical obsession with rural farm life and the world’s best pseudonym: Peter Porcupine) William or P. Porcupine said “Without bread, all is misery.” Perhaps a bit melodramatic, but, at the same time, incredibly accurate.
The second quote is by the brilliant writer Barbara Kingsolver, who wrote (among many other wonderful things) “If we can’t, as artists, improve on real life, we should put down our pencils and go bake bread.” Ah, wisdom. Dough in the hands is far superior to pointless artistic drivel, yes? I maintain that if you show up at your friends house with your hands behind your back saying “Pick a hand” and one hand has a loaf of sourdough rye and the other has a framed piece of pointless drivel, you’d better believe your friend is more likely to invite you in if she picks the hand containing the bread!
We bread a lot in our house. (Yes, it’s a verb here.) We engage in some form of breadish activity almost every hour of the day. We are either dreaming of wild yeasts and ancient grains, feeding the sourdough starter, mixing dough, forming dough, waiting for dough to proof, baking bread, smelling the baking bread, waiting (very impatiently!) for bread to cool or (most preferable) eating bread.
Over the years, bread has become a ritual. A blessed routine to mark time by, a skill that is never fully realized and yet, somehow, daily perfected. Just before I turn the lights out at night, I see the day’s bread (or what’s left of it!) on the bread board. It might be a lovely loaf, with a chewy crumb and a golden crust. Or it might be a botched loaf of sourdough rye, shaped more like a cow dung than bread. Either way, it is there, being bread and I have reason to say Thank You: for what I’ve learned from it, for what I’ve experienced through its creation. I will try again the next day, applying what I learned the day before and the day before and the day before. New mercies, even here.
I realize, also, I’ve begun to see the bread on the board at the close of day as a metaphor for my own life, my own days, my attempts at being Amy. There are lovely Amy days and there are cow dung Amy days. And either way, I am here and have reason to say Thank You (often very humbly!). And I will try again the next day and the next. New mercies, especially here.
Now, before I wax too poetic about bread, I must share an experience I had last night. We have a lovely set of friends named Adam and Solveig. They have an outdoor wood-fired bread oven and a love for yeasty delights that equals, even rivals, mine. And, they had us over last night to bake said breads in said oven! And it was 30 below outside! And it was so windy that it felt like 50 below! And a beer in the hand grew slushy between sips! And Sparrow couldn’t feel her toes! And none of that mattered…because we were baking bread in a wood-fired oven. And we were doing it with really good friends.
Truly, there is nothing more satisfying than warming your frigid fingers and hands on two loaves of steaming, crusty bread. You should try it at next available opportunity. And if you don’t find yourself near any subzero temps or crackling hot bread, drive around town in dead of winter with heat on full blast and windows rolled down–its the next best thing. All that contrast, that clash of opposites, that sensation of two extremes simultaneously. In those moments, you are very alive and very present and those are very good adjectives.
Actually, eating the bread was pretty satisfying too. We ate our fair share of carbohydrates that fine night, including three pizzas that Adam expertly tossed into submission. We broke bread and talked and laughed and endured ourselves to one another with stories of hilarity and authenticity.
Sharing a meal feels essential to me. It seems difficult to not grow in love for your neighbor, your friend, your fellow man, when you are sharing a meal with him. To participate in a meal, to come together over the basic and necessary human act of eating, binds people to each other by its very nature & definition.
There is something sacred in it too, in breaking bread together. Jesus did it with his friends all the time. Or at least I’m assuming He did because He instructed His disciples, before they left to proclaim the Good News, to do it. (“Whatever house you enter, first say, Peace be to this household! [Freedom from all the distresses that result from sin be with this family]…And stay on in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer is worthy of his wages.” Luke 10:5&7 AMP) I think He knew, in Spirit and in practice, that worthwhile conversations happen over food.
Even if I’m wrong and Jesus never ate with His those He met and loved, I still think there’s great merit in it. And if you stay long enough around the shared table, your hosts just might invite you to stay the night, putting you up in their sparest of spare rooms (“You should just imagine how exciting it was going to be for me to sleep in a spare bedroom!” -Anne of Green Gables)
In the morning, the Lake will be restless and relentlessly cold. But you will be very warm. Warm of stomach, warm of body and most importantly, warm of heart.
Here’s to bread, people and their blessed combination.