On “Bread” and Baking

March 18, 2011

Two naturally-leavened (sourdough) loaves. Fro...

Sourdough Loaves

I love baking bread and pizza.  I make my own dough and everything is done by hand — from the starter to the kneading and shaping.

Back in the late 1980s, I contemplated going to apprentice with the famous French boulanger, Lionel Poilâne. I still fantasize about opening a bakery/pizzeria.

My good friend Mark Herrera, who lives in San Francisco, also loves to bake bread.  We often swapped recipes and shared stories of our bread baking.  Once he shared with me a starter that had been in his family for years.

I loved the idea of sharing starter over a long distance and this idea became the starting point for a poem called, “Bread,” which was published in the journal Earth’s Daughters in 1999.  Here is my poem,

“Bread”

“Christ may have risen all at once, the gospel according to Betty Crocker seems to say, but flour and yeast and people made of dust require successive chances to reach their stature”Garret Keizer

 

He takes the bread from the oven, pausing

midway between the bread board and cooling rack,

absorbing the gluteny scent through crusty skin

–the color of a child’s arm

after a long hike on a summer’s day.

 

She says, “I have a marvelous sourdough starter,

passed on to me from a cousin who ran a bakery–

I can bring it to you.”

One pinch of starter travels two-thousand miles,

five hours through adventure, through altitude,

the acrid odor filling the cabin of the plane.

“It makes a bread that Jesus would be proud to call body.”

 

“Just a pinch?” she asks. “How can you deny me?”

She says that not to let her test it is tantamount to lack of love.

He gives in, just to see her face grow sanguine and lustful.

 

He once baked thirteen loaves for a homeless shelter;

then, nervous over numerology, he baked a fourteenth.

He couldn’t remember which one had been the offending loaf,

so he started all over again.  This time he scored each one

with a distinguishing mark using the blade of a sharp knife.

 

In the bread bowl, he mixes flour, water, salt.

Kneads, lets it ferment.  Kneads again, pulling and folding,

folding and pulling, lets it come into fullness.

Then lifts it into the oven, from where it will emerge

so finely crusted, so evenly textured, so giving of itself.

Bread that cries, when placed in her mouth,

“Eat me and you will never die.”


–Scott Edward Anderson, Earth’s Daughters, Issue 54, 1999

 

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6 Responses to “On “Bread” and Baking”

  1. John Thompson Says:

    Scot, I really like this. It raises some fond memories. I’ve actually been working on the revision of an old story where the central action involves the baking of bread.
    thanks
    jt


  2. Thanks, John. I hope it can be helpful in your story revisions “rise.” SEA


  3. […] I had a short stint as an assistant to a baker when I first moved to New York and loved baking bread.  My friend Howie said my bread was so good, I should open a bakery.  (I’ve told part of that story here.) […]


  4. […] me and you will never die.” –Scott Edward Anderson, Earth’s Daughters, Issue 54, 1999 https://seapoetry.wordpress.com/2011/03/18/on-bread-and-baking/ 50.322669 -5.019579 Advertisement GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", […]

  5. L.L. Barkat Says:

    oh, I like! 🙂

    And I love that you are a bread baker. Who knew?


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