Let’s talk about bread. Let’s talk about a warm loaf of homemade bread, fresh out of the oven. Since our earliest beginnings, humans have used bread to connect and nourish. It’s comforting, satisfying, and easy to share.
As a nation we seem to be baking a lot of bread right now. In the middle of the pandemic, markets all over the country were hit with surprisingly empty shelves where flour and yeast once lived, and colorful bread baking books are now a hot commodity.
When they couldn’t find yeast, creative bakers got sourdough starter from friends or made it from scratch and switched to baking beautiful, crusty boules of sourdough, posting their results on social media pages. Even novice bakers who never quite made it to sourdough pulled out their dusty loaf pans and made banana bread.
But why bread? Why this obsession about baking? Why is baking bread more satisfying than cooking? What is it about baking bread that feeds us, not just physically, but spiritually during the pandemic?
Maybe because bread has been the foundation of all civilization or because it has historically been considered life-giving, bread baking seems to be a thing we humans do in a crisis. There is an intense satisfaction in baking bread—It’s a sensory experience. It’s combining the simplest of all ingredients, using our own hands to knead the dough and form the loaves. We watch and wait while the dough slowly grows, like a magic trick. It feels good to pop this thing we made into a hot oven and peek at it through the tiny oven window as it browns up, then slicing into a warm loaf, slathering it with real butter and sharing it with those we love.
Or, just eating it ourselves.
Baking bread can bring us all sorts of psychological benefits. It’s a productive form of self-expression, and the whole process can be a kind of mindfulness. It gives us a feeling of control, so important when the world around is scary and uncertain.
Making a loaf of bread is a healthy distraction and a great source of stress relief, what therapists call ‘behavioral activation’—“a structured, brief psychotherapeutic approach that aims to (a) increase engagement in adaptive activities (which often are those associated with the experience of pleasure or mastery), (b) decrease engagement in activities that maintain depression or increase risk for depression”
Homemade bread gives a sense that all’s right in the world. Nothing smells better than a home filled with the aroma of fresh, baking bread. It brings us back to our roots. Life is confusing for all of us right now, and none of us knows exactly what to expect from our immediate future. There’s a certain comfort in controlling exactly what goes into the food we feed our loved ones. There’s a certain comfort in making bread from scratch, knowing our mothers and grandmothers did the same thing to feed their families.
Bread is fundamental.
Bread is sustenance, wholeness, primal.
Bread is magic.
Bread is life.