Four loaves of bread in a field
Here, after having received
some interesting responses to my recent bread post
is another meditation on the making of bread
During this time of year, when I plant my summer vegetable garden, I am always reminded of that other simple but beautiful and earthing activity. The activity of making one’s own bread. Two simple activities which seem to go hand in hand. Planting a garden and making bread.
When I think of ‘Bread’, I think of one of the most beautiful words in our language.
‘Nothing says lovin’ like something from the oven’
Although, nothing compared to the choices of bread available in other parts of the world, we here are also beginning to have all types of bread. From the nutty flavour of the complex whole grain loaf to the total blandness of white bread, from the romantic loveliness of the fancy bread croissant to the simple elegance of the down to earth breadstick, we are presented with enough choice to make us forget that bread basically is nothing more then a mix of flour and water, plus maybe a little salt, and that all else is extra. In this simple understanding lies the possibility of the act of making one’s own bread. An activity as simple as growing one’s own vegetables. We could greatly simplify an understanding of our lives if we re-connected with these two basic activities.
“we need more cooks, not more cookbooks” (or, for that matter TV cook shows).
Bread making itself. Where we take flour and mix it with the correct amount of water to form a dough, roll it into a ball, flatten it a little and place it on a tray then bake it. It is that simple. Perform this ancient act once and feel connected to an inherent part of your history. Your traditions thought forgotten, but rekindled with this simple act. Perform this ancient act once and recognise a dormant skill. A skill which simply cannot be forgotten. Even if you have never done it before, you are able to remember the making of bread. Flour/water/loaf.
And, as a result of the inherently creative creatures we are, we will want to play with this amazing material. This dough, this stretchy, pleasant to the touch, claylike plastic material which lends itself to shaping in many different ways. We realise that we are able to make a mark and personalise this simple loaf, that it does not have to look like a thing from the supermarket, but can take any form. A loaf of bread comes in as many forms as there are individual creative people making it. And everyone who makes as simple loaf of bread, is involved in the creative act
Another interesting aspect of bread making is that we do not have to learn how to do it. We, all of us, already know how to make bread. It is part of our gene make up. Once we make a loaf of bread we recognise the skill within us. A skill which has existed from a time well before our intellect and emotions came into being. A primal skill which you recognise as an old acquaintance, an old and trusted friend.
Flour/water, thin mix for pancakes, flour/water, thick mix for bread. Simple. Easy. Now, as the basic craft of bread making is recognised, felt at home with, play. Play as understood in the basis of all learning. Simple, add some, take some away, try this, try that, observe, easy steps. Like walking on a new path you recognise. You cannot get lost making bread. You will be guided. Guided by your forefathers and theirs. You know everything already through them. Cook, create, express and above all be adventurous and remain playful.
Making one’s own bread teaches. Teaches respect for ingredients, materials, tools and little things, plus an understanding of the economy of movement, which ultimately manifests itself in the concept of ‘no waste’. Making one’s own bread creates a connection to the real world by providing one’s own food. A connection we seem to have given away. And with that a basic power, a power which has been compromised.
Why is this important? You may well ask. Especially in this world where so much is unreal, meaning 'unconnected to the source'. That forgotten part of the world where we are able to centre ourselves and as a result become and remain strong. Thus the need to be occasionally connected. To be connected to the earth. The earth as the ultimate provider. The earth we are in danger of losing as a result of our unconnectedness, our carelessness, our indifference, our ‘want it now’, ‘have it now’ way of life.
Get reconnected, start with a simple loaf of bread. Plant one tomato seedling and plant it close to the backdoor. Then imagine this, a slice of freshly baked nutty bread with a slice of sun ripened tomato, on it a leaf of basil, plus a little salt. Beat that. Remember that you have always known both of these activities of growing intimately. You just forgot. Forgot to remember. And, if you need another reminder about the inherent loveliness of bread making, remember another thing you have not forgotten: “it is so nice to be kneaded”.