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The Bread of Love, or “Feel Like Baking Love” August 7, 2009

Posted by Nina Rosenstand in Culture, Food and Drink, Nina Rosenstand's Posts.

I’m back after a summer without Internet access, on a lake far, far away. News meant morning and evening news on the radio, and evening news on an old TV with a rabbit’s ear antenna. 2 channels. And actual, hands-on, crinkly newspapers that leave newsprint on your fingers. Remember those days?

Anyway, the local public radio waxed philosophical every Saturday morning, and one of the shows I caught was about bread and love. So I thought this would be an appropriate Friday post! The show featured a former journalist who is now a professional miller, and baker. They touched on themes such as bread in mythology, bread in history, Give us this day our daily bread (not daily protein, mind you), the transubstantiation—lots of fascinating points made, including a commentary by a theologian. The topic caught my attention, because I, too, am a baker of breads.

What happens when we add the yeast to the flour? Magic, they said. They actually said that. Rational, modern people on a Saturday morning, talking about the Mystery of Bread. You never really know how the bread will turn out, they said—there are so many factors at play, in addition to the temperature of the liquid and the age of the yeast. What is the air pressure? The room temperature? Your own attention and commitment to the task at hand? Sometimes the yeast comes alive the way it is supposed to, and sometimes it just doesn’t. From my own experience (which turns out to be universal) the kneading process will tell you if the yeast will cooperate. Either you’re struggling with dead weight, or you are feeling new life happen between your fingers. It rises! It’s alive! Frankenstein would have been better off if he’d just baked bread. And so would the villagers. (And we’re not even talking about Frankensteinian womb-envy here—anyone can play and bake bread. You don’t have to be of the female persuasion. But the show didn’t get into that aspect.)

So if we yearn for the creative process, without any Marxist alienation whatsoever, because we are in touch with the process, literally, from start to finish, baking bread is a great option. Once we get good at it, it will satisfy some of the creative urges we may have that are as yet unfulfilled. But that’s just from a personal, egocentric perspective. What about the love angle?

On the show, one of the women interviewed made this point: “When I bake,” she said, “I create something that will nourish others. So I put my love into the bread, and it will continue to nourish my family even when I’m absent. I leave my breads for my kids to eat in the afternoon, when I’m at work, and that is my way of telling them their mother loves them even if she is not physically there.” That perspective spoke to me. Every time I myself leave my family to go off on an extended stay (family business, or work-related), I try to find time to bake, and stuff the freezer with enough baked goods to last at least a week. It is a compulsion. I must bake, and leave baked goods behind. So I suppose I am baking love…



1. Paul J. Moloney - August 9, 2009

I wonder if we are more sustained by the love with which the bread is made than by the bread itself. Anyway, the love with which anything is done cannot be separated from what is done. The intelligence with which anything is written cannot be separated from what is written. The written works of Aristotle cannot be separated from the intelligence of Aristotle. The death of Socrates cannot be separated from the spirit in which Socrates died.

2. Paulina Fraser - December 9, 2009

I think the concept of satisfying a creative urge or by showing one’s love for others by baking can be applied not only with bread, but in general. Baking is that sense of home and belonging that we all remember growing up, or at least that we can pinpoint to a close knit family. There’s that stereotypical idea of a happy little family, with the mom baking in the kitchen and the kids and dad gather around the table to eat up the yummy goodness. It’s so picturesque. And as cheesy as it is, I am submissive to the whole idea of it. I think of baking as a great way to indulge because not only do I get a delicious treat at the end, but I love the process that goes into baking. Especially when it comes to desserts. It satisfies my creative sweet tooth because I get to create something of my own and when it’s all done with, I get to share it with others. It is in a sense, a magic of it’s own.

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