When I work with groups in a “bread-shop” (work-shop doesn’t really seem to fit the bill) I often start with a little bit of bread trivia.
The first question I usually ask is, “Where does bread gets its flavor: the yeast, the wheat, or something else?” I invite the group to call out their answers when I count to 3…..and laughter usually ensues.
After explaining to one group that in a basic dough the flavor comes from the wheat, I was caught by surprise when one woman, Rosemary, quietly muttered under her breath, “Does not.”
She paused briefly, eyed me squarely, and addressed the group, “My grandmother’s bread got its flavor from her essence.”
Rosemary began to recount memories of the grandmother who often sent her mistakes down the road to her family.
“Her mistakes were our treasures,” she said nearing tears. “I’m missing the essence of her. She was infused in the bread. I’ll never eat that bread again.”
The group was silenced for a moment. I knew exactly what she meant. We all did.
I heard a similar story this week when I was working with the Brockport Child Development Center staff. One of the participants, Therese, shared the tale of her grandma’s rolls with a lilt of disbelief in the telling. “We have the recipe,” she reported incredulously, “we all grew up making them with her. That recipe should work….but it doesn’t.” Without missing a beat she added in, “We’ll keep working on it, but her food was her love. It’s just not the same.”
Mother Teresa was quoted as saying, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”
Making bread may be one of those small things. It may also be a small thing to make a snack to share with your son’s class like my friend Natalie does. She certainly wasn’t surprised to hear the stories the women in the breadshops had shared. “When it’s my turn to bring in the snack for Iggy’s class,” Natalie said, “I have to also include an ingredient list….and I always list love as one of the ingredients.”
As Darrell and I sit by the woodstove sheltering ourselves from what the media has deemed a polar vortex, I can’t help thinking not only about
bread and life, but also the Spring. In just a few months we’ll be out of this deep freeze and begin to plant tiny seeds. Like the bread I make, those seeds will eventually grow into nourishment not only for our bodies but for our souls. Our family and friends will be fed from our harvest. Because of that, I plan on putting them into the soil with great love this year!
It may seem silly, but like those who cooked for us when we were young, we may never know the far reaching effects of what we do when it is infused with our essence; the un-namable, unrepeatable ingredient that is in fact, us. I suspect our grandmothers might be surprised to hear that the food they fed us has somehow taken root in our hearts.
“Do small things with great love….” They did it instinctively.
As many of you know, I credit my grandmother in part for my passion for bread. It’s likely because so much of her went into the making of it, but I think she might also be surprised to hear that she might be responsible for my deep abiding love of chocolate. To this day, I can’t eat a Hershey’s Kiss without finding myself back in her kitchen where she always had a bag stashed in the fridge. Perhaps she infused them with a little magic of her own, too.
Given the idea that whatever we do with great love is, well….great, this week I’m going to try something new: a chocolate-cherry yeast bread. I’m going to infuse it with everything I’ve got and share it with those I love. I imagine even if it is a technical flop, that somehow it’ll still be memorable.
I’m feeling so inspired by the stories I’m hearing from people in my breadshops!! You can find out more about what I’m doing Beyond the Blog here. If you have a similar story, I hope you’ll share it with the rest of us this week!
You can also read more of My Story with Bread.
As always, I hope we find ourselves some day together around the kitchen table with our hands in dough!
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