baking for God
if you wandered by my house, you would never stop to think, hmm, something unusual happens inside that house. not any more than you would think that at anyone else’s house.
but inside my house, once a month or so now that my kitchen is back in business, i bake for God. yes, yes.
not in the way dear benny, grandson of a bagel baker in the charming, makes-you-brush-away-a-tear, children’s book “bagels from benny,” ferries the hot bag of bagels into the synagogue every friday morning, tucks them into the holy ark, the blessed cabinet where the torah scroll is kept. only to find, come every saturday morning, that the bagels are gone. and he is convinced he is feeding bagels to God.
no, i don’t bake for God that way. though i cherish the story, cherish the thought.
in the uncanniest twist for a girl who grew up knowing that only cloistered nuns in faraway places were holy enough to mix the wheat with the water that would be cut into wafers that would rest on our tongues and get stuck to the roofs of our mouths, all in the name of jesus, well, i bake communion.
the same ovens that once a week transform twisty dough into risen sweet challah, once a month turn hot water (4 cups), white flour (2 1/2 cups), wheat flour (4 hard-to-add cups) into squat, flat unleaven loaves.
there is a recipe i follow, and i follow it religiously. turns out i was not doing it according to rules for my first few at-bats, and in a flash that took me back to sister leonardo mary rapping me for my mispronunciation of the word “women” (i couldn’t get that the pronunciation change was on the first syllable instead of the second), i was rapped in an email for my failure to cut the unleaven bread into little brown bits.
i was told they were tossing my loaves. (never mind that that step had been left off the photocopy they’d given to me.)
and i was informed, later on at a workshop (a remedial baking class, disguised as one-day retreat, perhaps?) that the recipe i now follow, one titled “boulder bread recipe” (you only need drop a loaf on your foot to understand the derivation thereof), was the product of many many hours of ecclesiastical to and fro. i was informed that to diverge from the steps was a sure path to, well…at the least your loaves would be, shame of shames, tossed. they would become so much squirrel food.
all kidding aside, there is something so sacred about turning two essentials of life–water and wheat–into loaves whose cut-apart squares will be blessed, will be made into communion.
communion, whatever you believe about it, is the sacrament of taking in life in the form of bread so that in your belly, your soul, you might live life more fully.
i have always found it to be far more than a metaphysical vitamin. i have the sense when i swallow a host that God, more than ever, dwells deep inside me.
so to stand in my kitchen, alone in the silence, to stir the ever-thickening dough, is indeed to be in communion with something far greater than little old me. i think as i stir of all those who will partake. i haven’t a clue who they are, or how this might change them. even if only so far as the trip back to their pew.
but perhaps, just perhaps, the person who swallows the bread that i bake needs sustenance of a form that only can come if you believe that far more than water and wheat is mixed in that bread.
believe me, i pray as i knead. i push hard into that smoothing-out mound. God only knows what else is working its way into the soon-to-rise dough.
for a short spell, then, my kitchen is holy. and the oven at 375 is filling the room, filling my soul, with a heat and a light that lasts long after the loaves they are packed, sealed and delivered.
you wouldn’t know that if you paused by my house. but you do now.
baking for God is a prayer that i pray with my hands and my raggedy red oven mitt. baking for God is my unspoken blessing. baking for God is, well, really quite heavenly.
This is a beautifully written, deeply spiritual, incredibly perceptive essay. As someone who grew up in a family of bakers, I found it absolutely delicious as well as deeply profound. MM, MM, MM!!!!!! Keep knocking ’em out of the park, Fred!
P.S. Willie Kamin deserves great credit for getting the fonts right on your Web site and for zapping some Mozart on the Lazy Susan page. Congrats, Willie!!!!!!
the new look is really fine! the serif “header” font really works. fine style! and yes, kudos to wills for the fine fine work.
I love that your oven produces two kinds of sacred loaves, maintains a rhythm of raggedy red oven mitt sacrality. Stir, knead, turn, knead, turn, knead, holiness in a regular beat right there in your kitchen. Eucharist, another name for communion, comes straight at us from Greek for “thank you.” Such a key component to holiness is giving thanks, living and breathing in gratitude. Key to holiness and also, key to internal peace, external lovingkindness, and not wasting the sum of our lives.Thanks for the window into your sacred kitchen doings.