Off the Beaten Path: My Favorite Place to Be

This morning, my son had toast for breakfast.

So what, you’re thinking. Who cares?

Well I do, since he’s gluten intolerant and hasn’t had toast in six months. Or a regular sandwich. The bread feels, looks, tastes and smells like normal bread because truly it is. It’s just made in a way that the gluten no longer matters, which is what I learned yesterday from Sarah Bryan, owner of Stick & Stone Brick Oven Bakery.

The breads are naturally leavened – making them “safe” for folks with either a gluten intolerance or diabetes. As Sarah explained it, the natural yeast digests the gluten while the dough sits for 18 hours, so our bodies don’t have to.

It was at my stunning speaking engagement yesterday as the Jewish Book Month author in Omaha, Nebraska that I learned of Sarah and her breads. During the book-signing, a woman from the audience told me she only eats flours imported from countries where they’re not bastardized into the “franken-wheat” we have most commonly in America. And she told me about Stick & Stone.

My lovely hostess Mary Sue said it would be no problem to swing by this bakery on our way to the airport. We drove out of the hub of the Jewish community, away from the hustle and bustle of Omaha and its environs, and suddenly we were on a highway and then a back road and then a dirt road, winding over and around expansive farm fields under a bright cold sun.il_340x270.446865012_tw0d

On the way? Um, sure. At a certain point, I had to apologize for taking us so far out of our way. Of course, Mary Sue thought nothing of it, said it was no big deal. We pulled up to a pale blue ranch house, right on the road, and I thought, what have I gotten us into?

We laughed as we approached the front door, where a little girl in a blue and pink satin princess dress stood coyly. Her older brother (all of 6) came to the door and we asked if Sarah was her mother. When he nodded, we asked if we could come in. “Please come in,”  he said, waving us through the door.

Sarah’s hair was covered in a pink bandana. Gigantic orange and white pumpkins lined up on the wood floor of the living room. Yesterday was baking day, so the only breads she had for me were two rye loaves from the freezer. I offered to pay, but she said a book for the breads was payment enough. That’s where she got the pumpkins, too – a trade at the farmers market where she sells her weekly offerings.

This is the kind of off-the-beaten-path adventure that I have always loved. It’s why I’ve spent my life as a writer. It was no bother to me to drive out of the way on backroads to find another way of looking at life. Someone once told me that people who eat differently, think differently.

And when you think differently, life becomes an adventure and you’re just along for the ride.

It sounds crazy that I might be ordering my bread from Nebraska from now on – or learning from Sarah how to make it here in Michigan. But I’ve met another person (a ton of people from Omaha, actually) who are expanding my life and my perspective, and I am so much better for having met them.

The bread was delicious. I had one bite of pungent rye and the rest was crumbly and chewy and delicious, just like we expect bread to be. We smothered it in ghee and cinnamon and Shaya dragged honey across the top of his slice. He was literally beaming. To eat toast and not worry about being in the bathroom in a few hours, doubled over in pain, is a treat for him.

And I’d go to any lengths to open the world for my child, and make everything possible.

On our way back to the car to hit the road for the airport, my enthusiasm bubbled over. “This is the kind of thing I love, Mary Sue,” I told my new friend. “This is why I’m a writer. I’ll go anywhere to find a good story, to be inspired by others.”

She nodded in agreement. We were both beaming, enriched from our on-the-fly experience. It’s when we let go, take a different route, an excursion on the way to the airport, that we have the best experiences. That our minds expand. That our lives become fuller.

The best things in life come unplanned. When we remain open to anything, we are better for it. I am as Type-A as the next, planning and scheduling and organizing everything and everyone into routine.

But the minute I can let go and recognize that this thing called life is a journey for us to be swept up in its path, I am so much happier. Try it. None of us are in control anyway.

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