The Making of Bread

07/13/1995 11p.m. ©I.B. Nelson

So much in life is confusing, ephemeral, illusory. So much effort is expended by so many many people on this earth in activities that are vain, that really produce nothing. Much of the work performed creates no useful 'thing' that can be held in the hands, felt, touched. By far the greater portion of human effort is either to no real end or its intended end is not attained. That is why I make, and speak, of bread.

To many people in our particular society, bread is an object of commodity; bleached, milled nearly to death, its natural components separated from one another, then artificially reconstituted in some fixed formula with "vitamins that build strong bodies 12 ways"; sprayed, blanched, manufactured within an inch of its identity as bread. This is not bread.

Bread is a state of mind, the nearly Zen-like state of concern with the now. Bread is an aroma that makes the eyes close in a state of voluptuous desire. Bread is a sensual softness in the hands, tender, yielding, soft, an act of love.

To make real bread takes time and personal involvement; one cannot be a real lover from a distance, never touching or holding the beloved.

Set aside a day, or portion of a day, preferably a day of puffy, lazy clouds and warm breezes; of gently billowing lace curtains at the window.

Into a large mixing bowl streams the warm-comfortable-to-the-body-touch water that dissolves the molasses or brown sugar; food for the yeast.

Yeast is a living thing that makes the bread itself live and rise and grow in warm muskiness. The bread maker becomes a creator in providing a world in which the yeast can find a happy secure environment in which to fulfill its divine destiny; the making of a loaf of bread.

If one has never smelled the rich redolent odor of rising bread under a damp cloth, one is poor indeed. The pungent smell of rising bread and burying ones face in the curling tresses of the beloved are one in the same; they both speak comfort and fulfillment.

Bread must be kneaded, touched and shaped. It is then that one comes to know the peace inducing quality of bread. Bread must not be hurried, cannot be hurried. The person who cries "No time, no time!" cannot understand the peace of bread, no, cannot know peace at all.

When bread has risen to its perfection, an egg-milk glaze brushed on just before the heat of the oven portends shiny crusty perfection. The aroma of the baking bread, made with ones own hands, brings a sense of accomplishment that many seek to find in other, worldly, hurried pursuits but seldom find.

I pity the person who has never made a loaf of bread, taken that loaf hot from the oven, cut and buttered a steaming slice and then blessed it with a layer of home-made blackberry jam.

To make bread on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, unconcerned with worldly pursuits, finding inner contentment and inner nutrition as well, is perhaps as close to paradise as we might come in this world.

That is why I make bread.