Today is Good Friday. Without being able to gather, Christians across the nation will be sharing communion via technology. It’s rather oxymoronic, communion without communing. Believers understand there is no distance too great to share in a common spirit, so we press on, comforted. While we won’t break bread together, we will break bread as a distanced community.
Something interesting has been happening since the onset of stay at home orders. There have been multiple Facebook posts concerning bread including traditional yeast bread, soda bread, and fruit bread. Our local paper has a column today dedicated to bread making as a foil for the confinement we are all enduring. The pandemic rages, but we have bread! Bread evokes comfort, pleasure, sustenance.
My mother made wonderful bread. With six children to feed, it was a monumental task and she made eight loaves at a time. She had a huge bowl where a mountain of dough came together and rose into an impressive blob. My imagination would run wild as I watched it grow—it would spill out and fill the house, or, take the form of a monster, suffocate all of humanity and take over the world! It’s alive!! A horror story was fermenting in my mother’s kitchen. But she tamed it, formed loaves and stuck them in the oven. It wasn’t long before a heavenly aroma filled the house. A half hour later, the browned delights were sitting on racks, my mouth watering in anticipation as I waited for them to cool. Though mom would shoo us kids out of the kitchen, none of us ever went very far, knowing a slice of warm bread slathered with butter was forthcoming.
I make bread on a regular basis, especially now that trips to the grocery store risks exposure to the covid virus. Mostly, I make yeast bread, but my favorite is sourdough. I’ve had a sourdough starter for nearly two decades. I named it ‘bob’. Bob has undergone much abuse, but bob always comes through—as long as I feed him. Which sometimes gets ignored. Poor bob. Bob had humble beginnings. It was birthed from a stew of flour, water, wild grape leaves and a small slice of cabbage. Let me explain. Yeast spores are everywhere, ready to burst to life and ferment all manner of food. Wine is fermented by yeast. Same for beer. Sauerkraut, ditto. My rationale was that a starter conceived in a marriage of wild yeasts could be tamed into a reliable producer of aromatic bread. Thus, bob was born.
We joke about bob. Does bob like Florida? Is bob pulling his weight? How is bob feeling? Bob is lonely (this when the starter gets ignored). And of course, the classic, “What about bob?” Ha. Ha. Purists will reflect that bread making in ancient times required ‘bob'. I’m quite sure packets of Fleischmann’s yeast did not exist when Jesus lived. I feel a romantic connection to my ancestors when kneading dough fermented from starter, but I’m glad I don’t have to stoke a clay oven to bake it.
Bread has sustained mankind through millennia. It nurtures as well as nourishes. In times of trouble, we all need a nurturing touch. When Jesus said, “I am the bread of life,” the metaphor was no accident.
So let’s make a toast to bread! Hoorah! (No pun intended.)
The blob and . . .
. . . the Bread