Musings about Bread

A glimpse at the musings of the LCM Food and Faith small group:

Bread is fascinating.  I know it seems like a mundane and perhaps boring food, but stay with me here.  It takes simple ingredients, at its core just consisting of ground up grain and water, and transforms them into a delicious and completely altered form.  Through the complexity of chemistry the inedible becomes not only edible, but incredibly valuable.  We value bread so much that we have given the driving force of our world (money) a nickname that comes from bread (dough).  Bread has started revolutions in its absence (French Revolution anyone?)   Even more importantly, it is the basis of almost every culture’s diet.  If we went on an international culinary bread tour, we could eat baguettes from France, focaccia from Italy, soda bread in Ireland, naan and roti from India, dark rye bread in Russia, tortillas in Mexico, pandesal in the Philippines, bannock from North America, or mantou in China (“Bread”, 2010).  Bread feeds the world, and gives us all common ground. It is something that both feeds our bodies and soul as well as brings us into community. 

To me bread is more than my morning toast; it represents the core of my faith.  Simply eating requires me to rely on God’s abundant gifts.  Gifts of nature, talent, and time that are shared not only with me but with my friends and families, bringing us together over the sharing of a meal.  It is rather humbling eating something that has been made for some 30,000 years, something that was shared on the communion table.  The simple gift of bread becomes a platform for community, a moment to share in faith and to sustain us as we live out our beliefs.

At the same time, bread can be a challenge to our beliefs.  It provides an interesting lens to look at the global food crisis.  As a culture, we value and romanticize the bread that is homemade and local; bread that reminds us of Tuscan villages or of Mom hand kneading dough.  Some say this romanticized notion of bread is what could fix our food system, if only we could all go back to making bread and other foods locally and in a healthy way.  At the same time, this is not economically viable for less wealthy nations.  Citizens of small poor communities cannot afford to spend all of their time growing and harvesting grain and manipulating it into bread, so they utilize mass production and preservatives.  It is simply not viable nor sustainable for their communities.  So here we are, with an interesting question.   What is better: eating in an environmentally friendly way that is not viable and even detrimental to small impoverished communities, or feeding the world processed and preservative-rich white bread that is cheap and plentiful while possibly hurting our bodies?  We have a rather murky situation, one that also brings interesting questions to a Christian community.   How can we share God’s gifts while protecting his creations?  I certainly don’t have an answer.  All I know is that a still have a lot to learn from bread.  

Lindsey May

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