Metaphysical aspects of breadmaking

I make bread every couple of days, sometimes by hand, sometimes in my trusty Panasonic bread machine. Even in the machine, however, results are hard to duplicate. Every loaf is different. Today's olive bread, for example, usually easy to make, would not rise properly.



It's hard to say why, because bread making is a combination of several disciplines: biology (getting the yeast to grow), chemistry (getting all the ingredients to react well), physics (the perfect amount of kneading) and thermodynamics (using heat correctly to bake the whole concoction).

But there is also a metaphysical dimension, which gives bread its place at the centre of so much religious thought, a magical laying-on-of-hands and coming-to-life which transforms inanimate ingredients into the very staff of life.

The whole kitchen feels different (to me, at least) when bread is rising. There is an expectant hush. A risen loaf is a gleaming, swollen, fertile thing, like the belly of a pregnant woman. And of course, the triumphant smell of freshly-baked bread is glorious.

All this means that I can't simply throw a failed loaf away. It has to be eaten, whether good or bad, because it is what it is.

So I will reflect on these things as I munch my olive bread tonight, and hope to do better tomorrow.
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Published on May 15, 2014 10:22
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message 1: by Susan (new)

Susan You are spot on when describing breadmaking as being more than the alchemy of ingredients. It is a transformative experience as in the laying on of hands. Bread if heaven and bread for the belly. The chance to contemplate and ruminate while kneading and knocking out the bread. Nice thoughts Marius, nice writing. Tip top.


message 2: by Marius (new)

Marius Gabriel Thankee Susan x x x x x


message 3: by Jenny (new)

Jenny Potts I have never made bread. I did have a bread making machine once - not sure how that got on the premises. I do like bread though. And olives. Either...separately. Ortogether. Jen x


message 4: by Susan (new)

Susan Watanabe Dear Marius,

I love the way you think. You can take the simplest (not that bread making is simple) concept and whip up something fabulous. More often than not, you bring a steaming sensuality into the most mundane things. That's what I love about you. Errrr, your writing ;-)


message 5: by tiasreads (new)

tiasreads Absolutely love this. I've always said that baking is the intersection of art and science. That's especially true of bread baking.


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