Since humans first tamed fire and turned grain into flour, we have been making bread. In the earliest form, breads were simple. Mix one or more flours with water. Pat out into a flat cake. Cook on a hot rock or a stone hearth around an open fire. That’s it. So simple, so basic to survival. And something shared by all peoples on Earth throughout history
As we’ve seen during this pandemic, baking bread is about more than just survival. There’s something about the bread-making process that is compelling. It’s elemental, grounding, nourishing in the most essential ways. If you haven’t (yet) baked bread during this time, your Facebook feed and Instagram have almost certainly been full of pictures of all kinds of breads people you know have made when forced to stay at home. Sourdough, which takes daily attention to keep the starter alive, has been particularly popular. It’s hard not to draw some symbolism from that.
We are now also in a time of social and political upheaval and change. This makes the qualities of bread’s emotional sustenance even more important, especially when understood together with the centrality of bread in nearly every diverse culture, historically and in our world today. Bread, in various forms, is something all peoples share.
This awareness led me to conceive a Lilith online class focused on basic flatbreads. Participants gathered over Zoom one recent Friday afternoon before Shabbat. As I talked and mixed, kneaded and rolled out each flatbread, I felt myself becoming calmer, more centered in the moment and even more content, regardless of the many people watching the presentation. I hope at least some of those feelings came through on people’s screens. (You can watch here.)