Tomorrow is my first event for my new book, The Flavors of Faith: Holy Breads. So this morning, I’ve been writing my speech and reviewing two years of reporting, interviews and writing.
Writing about how food and faith communicate tradition and heritage and meaning has long been a passion of mine. As an Orthodox Jew for ten years, it was the supreme challenge to see if I could become a food writer without tasting many of the foods.
And that is how I learned about how food is so much more than something to eat.
It is how we come together and share stories. It is how we transmit tradition. It is how we elevate moments. It is how we control others or let go of control. It is how we create memories.
In our society, bread has become bad. It’s something that makes us fat, isn’t it? High-carb, low-carb, no-carb, how many people have you seen tear out the inside of a bagel or raise a hand and say no thanks when the bread basket arrives at the restaurant table?
I, too, feel the spread of middle age and carry a notion that I should probably stay away from foods like bread. And yet, I want to savor my life, I want to taste the moments, I want to enjoy. And so I do things in moderation, even consume bread, because to not feel the texture, to not taste the softness, to not sample what is brought before us is to limit ourselves to a life of black-and-white, of off-limits.
I often wonder about how we corner ourselves in this Western world. In so many parts of the world, life is lived in vivid color and flavor. And in many places, people don’t worry about whether they are as thin as possible or as model-perfect as they see in popular culture. They taste, they enjoy, they sip wine, they slide a forkful of dessert onto their tongue.
Life is about sampling the flavors and knowing their sensations. This new book is about how we make meaning out of what is so basic – flour, water, yeast, salt. Nothing fancy. And yet, with time and attention and lack of attention, and rising and punching down and allowing to rise again – bread becomes representative of what is possible from the merest ingredients.
That’s something pretty remarkable. I think we could all enjoy even a single piece that represents so very much.
I’ll be speaking tomorrow at 4 pm at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Royal Oak. Join me if you can.