Jan 23, 2006

Be Delicious

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!


susan said...

This is such a wonderful post, Lauren. (Do you know Phantom Scribbler's
challah post
? That's my other favorite bread post.

Fresh-baked bread is just so magical: it smells so good, it tastes so good fresh from the oven (or machine). I used to bake bread regularly, then got out of the habit. In the past year, with Curious Girl, I've been baking up a storm.

I like the way you're thinking about bread. That it represents a kind of generosity and luxury that we can have daily, but that we turn away from.

Scrivener said...

You know Ray Carver's "A Small, Good Thing," yes? That story absolutely kills me. I tried to teach it once, and I was so choked up trying to read that ending paragraph where the baker offers them fresh rolls and they sit and talk together that I completely lost my train of thought.

I'm going to dust off the ole bread maker and try this one. Thanks.

Anjali said...

A dear mentor of mine, who passed away soon after my internship ended, signed every letter he every wrote, "Bread and Justice" before printing his name. It's such an interesting combination of two words, but one of the most meaningful goodbyes I have ever read.

Sandy said...

Delicious post ;-) I like some of Anne Lamotte's books better than others, but my favorite will always be "Operating Instructions" (could be retitled "Having a Baby with Colic by Yourself"). Anyway, some of her images from that book stick in my mind over ten years later.

Scrivener said...

Just wanted to say thanks for sharing the recipe! Ella and I made your bread the other day and it really was delicious.