My friends Cathy and Dave included the following quote in their Christmas letter. It's from Anne Lamott's Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. "Bread is as spiritual as life gets. [The poet] Rumi wrote, 'Be a well-baked loaf.' Loaves are made to be eaten, to be buttered, and shared. Rumi is saying to be delicious and give life." I shared the quote in a Sunday school class recently and then got a copy of the book from the library. I have always liked Anne Lamott. The first I ever heard of her was on This American Life ("Music Lessons," 1998). I didn't catch her name, and never learned who she was until the segment was repeated. (You know she's a woman after my own heart when she writes, "On the day I die I want to have had dessert.")
Back to the bread. "Be delicious and give life." We don't think of ourselves being delicious, do we? It sounds too . . . sexual, too available. But I think of it as an innocent generosity, a willingness to fling good will outward, not knowing where it will land or if it will be returned. Lamott several times has mentioned that she "flirts" with old people at the grocery store or on the street. I know what she means, taking a risk to connect, even though you have nothing to gain. It's a way to be delicious.
In Sunday school class that day, someone mentioned that a person in a rice-based culture would have trouble with Jesus' statement, "I am the bread of life," and suggested that it be translated especially for whichever starch the particular culture is based on. "I am the tortilla of life," or "I am the rice cracker of life."
On another level, so many people don't even know what good bread tastes like, or think that baking it yourself must be very difficult, and not the simple but patient task it really is. The impoverished idea of "bread" as either something unattainable and labor-intensive OR something bland and factory-made, surely has deep spiritual consequences. At myYMCA the other day I overheard a lady in her 70's telling a woman in her 30's about her sourdough bread that she has made for thirty years. The older lady offered to give the younger one some starter and the recipe, but she said"I don't have time to wait for things like that." The exchange made me feel sad, as it was but one small refusal of a life-bestowing gift that could have multiplied itself for years to come, giving joy to countless other hungry humans and begging dogs under the table. She refused the call.
Here is my recipe for oat bread. I don't remember where I first got this recipe, but I've changed it so many times that it's really and truly mine now. I make it in the bread machine I've had for ten years. The boys eat this for lunch every day.
Lauren's Humble Everyday Oat Bread
Combine in bread machine:
3/4 cup oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached regular flour
1/4 cup powdered buttermilk
1 tablespoon yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
slightly less than 1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 cups water
Start machine. When it beeps to add extras, you can add 1/2 cup of flax seed meal, walnut meal, oat bran, millet, or some other grain. You can use molasses or maple syrup instead of honey. Or use all unbleached regular flour. Don't forget the yeast, for Pete's sake. I've done that twice. Share this bread and remember to be delicious!