I can think of few moments that match the awe and anticipation of freshly baked bread taken from the oven. For to inhale the warm smell of freshly baked bread is nothing short of taking the final breath into nirvana. It is pure glory and undiluted comfort – the cornerstone of happiness and the definition of civility.
As a young boy fueled by innocent dreams and unburdened by shoes, I never missed the divine act that is bread making. Mom baked. Grandma baked. Aunts baked. All along the gravel streets of our neighbourhood, people baked.
For many years, the smell of fresh, home made bread is what called us to the table, where with love and sincerity we’d receive our humble, daily blessings.
These days, things are different. Grandma passed away many years ago and I get to visit the aunts only on the odd occasion. Mom still calls with a small loaf of bread tucked into a blue cloth, but the days between calls have become many and quite irregular.
Back then everyone had a potato starter to leaven the bread. These were kept in a jar and fed with fresh dough regularly to ensure that it remains alive and active. Friends shared their starters, just like they shared their bread. Sadly, this does not happen anymore. I have not seen an active potato starter in years.
If humanity has one thing in common, it is probably bread. The diversity in methods, shapes and ingredients, reflects our cultural diversity. Its nourishment and significance, reflects our core unity.
Yet, today we are faced with a strange anomaly. Never before has the components of human diversity been so accessible to us. Yet, never before have we been so poorly prepared to take advantage of it. Let me explain.
Just the other day, I browsed the supermarket shelves for inspiration. I know, supermarkets are an unlikely source, but everyone else was either attending a religious ceremony or having a family feast, so I was left with ample time and space for a walking meditation, so I took full advantage of it.
Tucked away in a small frozen corner, next to the frozen peas and other young vegetables, I discovered an acquaintance’s homemade ice cream. Grabbed two tubs with different flavours to raise awareness.
Over by the dairy section I bumped into a few tubs of organic Kefir (a yogurt-type drink) made locally on a farm close by. Grab one, as it is great for making sourdough or even unleavened bread.
All cooks should be concerned about the well-being of our proud predators, so I grabbed a small tub of young goat’s milk cheese. Hand-made on the farm to help conserve our cheetah’s. These I’ll blend into some cream, whip vigorously and shape it into oval quenelles to serve with creamy pearl barley and courgette soup.
Over at the flour section I noticed that the locally packaged, bleached, white bread flour were flying off the shelf, whilst the imported, more exotic flours of the world hardy receive any attention. Spelt flour. Rye flour. Bulgur wheat flour.
Truth be told, I was not surprised, for most shoppers would not be familiar with these exotic flours, and would hence not know what to do with them. And herein lies our modern conundrum.
With the flavours of the world at our fingertips, we choose only the familiar, for we lack the knowledge, the confidence and the most basic of skills to take full advantage of the opportunity to learn and grow. And in doing so, I believe we fail to promote what this modern world needs most: peace through faith in common humanity.
It is the Scandinavians who believe that, they who eat from a common loaf of bread will fall in love. I thus encourage you to eat the same bread as the nations you despise most. Promote love among the nations of our modern world. Yes, these flours are a little bit more expensive than the usual, but I recon it is a small price to pay for world peace. And, on a more personal level, baking is fun and rewarding. For out there, somewhere is someone who believes that the man or woman who cuts the bread has to kiss the cook. And you and me, we could both do with a kiss or two don’t you think?
Soda bread is super easy and quick to make. Instead of yeast, bi-carbonate of soda (hence the name) is used as a leavening agent. It needs no rising time and should go into the oven immediately.
Rye bread takes longer and because of its low gluten content has a longer proofing time and a much denser texture. Just add some honey and a few caraway seeds, sit back and wait patiently. For soon you will be kissed.