I was 22 at my bridal shower and had never touched a raw chicken. My future sister-in-law was seated discretely behind me as I opened each wishing well kitchen gadget to whisper to me how to thank people.
Jamie: It’s a garlic press.
Me: “Thank you for the, um, garlic press!” It looks like it would make great play doh spaghetti….
We put Cyrano to shame.
My limited cooking knowledge was accrued by watching my grandmother in the kitchen, and stirring ramen in the microwave of my college dorm. I didn’t know a protein from teen spirit. Who would have thought, ten years later, I would become so enamored with the kitchen enough to write a blog based on the time spent around the table? That my whole theology would shift to accommodate the truths found in the simple breaking of bread, pouring of wine, giving thanks bolstered by the scents of baking and simmering and roasting and bubbling coming from the kitchen. MY kitchen.
It shouldn’t have been as surprising as it was. My great-grandfather came to America from the Netherlands with his brother to open the Vanderberg Brother’s Bakery, just before the Depression. They knew very little English. But they knew how to make bread. They knew the feel of the dough between their fingers. They knew that smell was the best way to tell if bread was done. The knew the difference between the hollow knock of a well baked loaf and the depressing thud of one pulled too quickly from the fire. Bread is the ultimate, cross cultural unifier. It smells like home. It’s in my blood.
That’s why, ultimately, this no carb diet stuff never sticks. Not when it comes to bread. Bread is more than it’s breakdown of ingredients. It’s the song of ancestors and immigrants. It’s in our DNA, whether Tortilla or Boule or Pita. It’s foundational in it’s nutrients. It takes time to put together. To rise. To rise again. To bake. To cool. It’s assembly is the furthest thing from our immediate gratification syndrome. It speaks of a time when things that mattered were placed as a top priority- something that’s foreign and strange to us, now. Nourishment, Community, Family, Pleasure.
I live in New Jersey, work in NYC and fight for a balance amidst the hurry. Bread helps me connect to the things that matter.
Take that, Atkins.