17 November 2010

com panis

For several days, I’ve had bread on my mind.

I haven’t been eating much of it lately -- an obvious reason to ponder it, I suppose. But honestly, I think the substance of these thoughts resides in more than just bread’s absence in my life of late. Actually, it’s the choice that’s been on my mind. With bread, I am almost always forced to choose.

This ubiquitous staple, with its varieties and complexities, is so often boiled down to a choice. But clarity, context, character and color can be compromised when I am asked to decide between white and wheat.

For me it’s not that simple.

It’s not that I wish to consider every variety on every occasion. There are far too many options for me (and especially for the poor guy in line behind me) to choose from: oat, corn, multigrain, sourdough, pumpernickel, rye… whole grain, seven grain, sprouted grain… quick breads, slow breads, French breads, German breads… loaves, rolls, biscuits, baguettes, croissants, bagels, matzos, pitas, tortillas, focaccias, challahs, naans, chapattis… some mysterious, foil-clad, holiday loaves bound by fruits, nuts, seeds and spices… still others free of salt, high-fructose corn syrup, flavor… oh, and gluten.

For heaven’s sake, it’s BREAD, right?! And there’s not much to bread, really. It’s just water, flour and energy.

Perhaps.

But as I've been searching my heart this week -- trying to understand and to make sense of some things and some folks -- I've settled my mind at the counter of a proverbial bakery. A particular loaf of bread has commanded my thoughts enough for them to become words this afternoon. I get this bread. Hell, I am this bread.

This bread has heart, texture and depth; it is not easy. It is dark, rich, and it requires time – to chew and to digest. Its substance and sweetness are subtle; its flavor, strong and distinct. In contrast to its smooth, saccharin, carefree and easily-digestible counterparts, it can be overlooked or overpowered. But when the tenderness beneath its crisp crust is experienced and well-paired – with creativity, care and intention – this bread is far more than flour and water.

But is there really a choice?

Let's face it: as long as long as we live in a world with school lunches and Thanksgiving, Wonder Bread and Pillsbury Crescent Rolls will take the enriched-white-flour cake. Further, when faced with a simple choice, kiddos and carnivores worldwide will opt for either of the latter over the earthy alternative twenty times over. My bread will never make the same kind of dinner roll... ever.

So why exhaust any more energy baking hearty, wholesome holiday rolls? Perhaps it's time to let wheat be wheat, to let white be white, and for me to be true to my bread nevertheless. For today, I'll just ponder the wonder of bread.

I think bread is a wonderful thing, indeed. I am consuming it less, valuing it more and discriminating about the company it keeps. This has made a difference.

2 comments:

Leah said...

Do you remember these little gems from Heidelberg?
http://andreasrecipes.com/photos/Stuttgart_Markthalle_laugenbrotchen.jpg

Abi T. said...

man, those were good. i LOVED those things!!