Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Bread of Life

I am the bread of life... Jesus of Nazareth

We watched the third episode of Michael Pollan's four-part series called Cooked the other evening and from Ruth's perspective this was the best we had seen. Mind you, it was almost entirely about bread, and she has been an enthusiastic bread-maker for decades. The four episodes are about how humans feed themselves and they are focussed on the elements of fire, water, air, and earth. I hadn't really thought about the basic reality that bread is ground grass seeds, in the form of flour, water, and salt. While yeast may be included, what matters most in transforming these ingredients is air. The bakers they interview are fascinating individuals who appreciate both the science and the alchemy of bread-making.

Pollan reminded us that bread has been a staple of the human diet for thousands of years, and that the chance discovery that natural yeasts will leaven a pot of flour and water. Heating that mixture will release gases into the loaf, making it far more edible. He also pointed out that when there isn't enough bread to go around people get cranky. The French Revolution and the Arab Spring protests were triggered by a lack of bread.

Little wonder then that Jesus described himself as both bread and water in John's gospel, the essentials of life. When there was a bread shortage at a gathering by Galilee he made sure that everyone was fed. Of course Jesus' last meal with his disciples included bread, and is one of the sacraments of the church.

In a recent diet bread was essentially demonized, but whether it is naan or pita or a sourdough loaf, healthy breads are nourishing and sustaining.

Have you watched the Cooked series? Do you enjoy good bread? Do you appreciate why Jesus described himself as bread.

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