Saturday, June 04, 2005

The Beauty of Bread

Bread is holy, and the process of breadmaking is like a religious rite. A loaf of bread may seem the simplest of sustenance, but in its depths lies the sum of human experience and cultural development. I truly believe that bread is one of the greatest gifts that God has given mankind, and this gift is one of those which set us apart from the beasts, to whom no almost-supernatural concoction of flour, water, salt and yeast has been given.

I love making bread - not in a bread machine, Lord deliver us! - but in the old-fashioned, time-honored, kneading, rising, waiting, punching down, rising, waiting again way, perfected by generations of bakers since the dawn of time. Taking five hours to produce two loaves of crunchy, yeasty pre-tastes of heaven is a lesson in patience too often not learned in the hurry-hurry world of today. Bread and babies and good marriages and vegetable gardens teach us that wonderful things, the very best of things, take time and nuturing and love and commitment to know and see and appreciate.

Bread is also one of God's great metaphors - the symbol of plenty and fulfillment.

I made one of my favorite bread recipes last week - Mantovana, which is olive oil bread from Mantua in the Lombardy (Carole Lombardy - ha!ha! - just kidding!) region of Italy. Here's what it looked like (one full loaf, and one loaf half-eaten from dinner on Friday night):

Mantovana Bread

Despite my philistine aversion to poetry, I am in love with this poem I found in a cookbook (More-with-Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre - a book with a good heart and some great recipes):

The Beauty of Bread
(A Mennonite Poem)
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 rains have caressed it.
Christ often blessed it.
Be gentle when you touch bread.
—Author Unknown

And here are some of the many references to bread found in The Holy Bible:

"If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them, shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land safely" Leviticus 26:3-5 (NKJV)

"...Give us this day our daily bread..." The Lord’s Prayer

"The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread." 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 (NKJV)

"And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never hunger and he who believes in Me shall never thirst." John 6:35 (NKJV)
Peace to all, and joy in earthly bread and the Bread of Life!


Flicka Spumoni said...

Another great post! I love my bread machine but then I never knew their was so much to learn from making a loaf.

You could easily use the process of bread making as a metaphor for life in the same way that orchids were surveyed and magnified in "Adaptation" with Meryl Streep and Nicholas Cage.

I'm with you on the vegtable garden. We just planted one a few days ago and I can hardly wait to harvest.

Justine said...

Sorry about the bread machine crack. I get frustrated when people learn that I bake bread and immediately assume that I use a bread machine. Nothing wrong with the bread machines, but, I assure you, it is a lot more satisfying to get your hands on that living dough and knead and punch and become one with the bread.
Peace to you, and happy writing, Flicka S.!

Serena said...

Hey, I start mine with my kitchen aid and finish it by hand. I just made up a Rosemary and Garlic Bread recipe that everybody that has had it really likes. I make Challah the most, though, every Friday. I do have to say that I cheat a lot and skip the risings. I just got Laurel's Bread Book at the library and am going to work at letting it rise a couple of times. My family just likes homemade bread and they are not connoiseurs about it (though I have to say my 12 yr old son must be one about most things as critical as he is at mealtimes!) I just want to do an excellent job instead of mediocre so will reform my bread baking to taking a longer time.
I loved that cookbook and wore it out. When we moved from Florida, I gave it to my oldest daughter but miss it and will probably have to get a new one some day.
We had to move before I got my garden planted and I have a bunch of plants I started on my back porch needing to be planted. The trouble here is the ground is about pure clay and the grass is even struggling to grow on it. Right now we don't have funds to buy all the stuff to make it growable, so I'm trying to figure out how to at least get some things growing this season yet. I'm glad I found your site. Bless you!
Love and shalom,

Justine said...

Hi Serena!

What a beautiful name!

Thanks for your comments on this and another post. And for your comments on my dad's post.

If you still need some pointers about cut-and-paste, let me know.

I love your blog. And I'm going to have to give Challah a try some day - maybe this Friday before sunset!

I hope you're able to get your garden up and running before the summer growing season is too far gone. Up here in the PNW, the trouble is getting things to stop growing! Oy! Our tomato plants are huge - unfortunately, so are our weeds.

Peace to you and thanks for stopping by!