Friday, March 4, 2011

Our Daily Bread

On Thursday, our neighbor's daughter spent the morning with us while her mother taught a Bible class. She is a lovely young girl, about a half year younger than my daughter. I promised to feed the young lady lunch because her mother expected to return just before one in the afternoon. Lunch was going to be simple. Ham sandwich and grapes, along with a glass of cold milk. Alas, at night I realized I was out of bread. No problem. With my trusty, and much loved KitchenAid Stand Mixer I was just going to whip up some bread. And I did. A simple 50-50 wheat-white bread which I made in the span of 3 hours without much effort at all. Her mother  thought I joked when I said: 'Oh, I was out of bread, so I quickly made some.'

What has happened to us? For thousands of years we baked our own bread.

Breaking bread together at the table was synonymous with inviting someone to friendship. It implied trust and welcoming.

The Bible is full of references on sharing bread. Apparently to ancient people of that region, bread was an important thing.

Now, bread has become something we pick up at the store. Wrapped in sanitary plastic and with a list of ingredients ranging from 9 to 39 ingredients. And we have lost our connection to it.

Let us break bread together.

The simple act of pulling apart a loaf of fragrant Challah bread, fresh out of our own oven, or slicing into the brown goodness of a loaf of wheat bread should be something we can all come together over. Bread is something found in just about every culture. It keeps well, it travels well and it can be eaten plain, by itself or with an array of other goodies.  It can be simple with no more ingredients than grain, water and maybe some salt. It can be fancy with eggs, butter, milk and wonderful seasonings. Oftentimes, when we celebrate a special occasion, our daily bread takes on a celebratory shape. But  whatever the shape, Bread is something basic that belongs to all of us.

Bread can be flat like Chapatis or Pita.  It can be fancy and artfully styled like a braided loaf of yeasty goodness. You'll come across rustic loaves that crackle under your hands and those whose silky smoothness leaves you swooning in a fog of carbohydratic intoxication. I made the last part up but you have to admit is sounds gooooooood. Doesn't it?

My mother, who grew up in postwar Germany,  remembers the women of the village  walking to the community baking oven every day to bake their families' daily bread.  The community oven was  similar to the coffemaker of todays' office community, a place to gather and communicate. While the bread baked, women caught up on gossip, news and traded tips and ideas.  My mother remembers all kinds of breads coming out of that oven. Some women made simple, rustic loaves with the family's initials on it. Or a particular style of scoring which easily identified the owner of that bread. Other women were careful to lovingly shape and style their bread. And during Easter, breads were woven and baked with colored eggs embedded in the dough. 

Our Daily Bread.

I will try to bake bread at least once a week now and try and share it with someone other than family alone. Who knows, maybe at least in our family, we'll find our connection to that communion again.

Let Us Break Bread Together.

Communion  may be a Christian term now but it is a word derived from the  latin communio  or 'sharing in common'.  If you bake this week, take a portion of your bread and share it. Maybe it will be with your co-worker. Maybe you choose to break bread with your neighbor.  Whoever who decide to break bread with, whether you are a Christian, a Hindu, Wiccan, a follower of Islam, or Buddha, be blessed. Even if you are agnostic or atheist, the meaning of breaking bread transcends all levels of belief. It is something that is part of us as human beings.

Bread is in our DNA.

1 comment:

Eva said...

THis is so true about the ingredients! Bread should be simple, but it seems to be a very complicated product if you trust the ingredients.