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Friday, October 25, 2013

an ode to bread

Be gentle 
when you touch bread. 
Let it not lie
uncared for, unwanted. 
So often bread 
is taken for granted. 
There is so much beauty in bread -- 
Beauty of sun and soil, 
Beauty of patient toil. 
Winds and rain have caressed it, 
Christ often blessed it. 
Be gentle 
when you touch bread. 

(Author unknown)




I love bread.


I love grinding the wheat berries, sifting them through my hands and smelling them as I pour them into the grain mill. They smell sweetly nutty. I wouldn't mind if the same description was made of me.

I love measuring out the flour, bringing it into a soft ball and kneading with the steady rhythm of my hands that works out the knots I carry in my neck and shoulders. I love that rhythm, out in, out in, out in, push and pull, feeling the exquisite pillowy softness of the dough, smelling the yeasted rich wheat, and letting my thoughts absorb into the action and away from everything else.

I love the satisfaction of tipping out beautifully golden baked hot loaves into my cloth-covered palm. I love the smell the house takes on in the baking of bread. I love the shaping of yeast-free flat breads, the bubbling rise on the hot pan and the pliable rounds wafting warm scent through everywhere. And then I love eating my bread. Finely crumbed center, formed crust not too tough to toast and still eat. Put it under scrambled eggs with Marmite spread on it. Dip it into lentil soup. Sandwich egg salad and lettuce together, or cheese and pickle, or ham and mustard, or nut butter and homemade jam. It's amazing stuff, bread. 

It is sad to me to watch the growing gluten-free hype. More and more health nuts I know purport that bread is evil, fattening, unhealthy. Gluten-free fake breads, which are more like savory cakes than actual bread are becoming more popular. I understand there are those with genuine gluten allergies or intolerances. I am sad for them. They miss the joy of wheat. Bread is not to blame for obesity. Just as eating too much salad will give you the runs, or consuming too much flesh proteins will clog up the works and make you tired, binging on bread will make you unhealthy. But gluttony is not the same as gluten. Processed flours that lack the rich goodness and natural fibers, substituting high fructose corn syrup for whole grains, do not truly make bread. Bread is earthy, whole, real grains. Bread is sustenance in a form worth moderation. Bread bears a history of thousands of years of nourishment to most cultures of the world.

Eat bread. Love bread. Be thankful for bread.

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