INSPIRATION – 7 MIN READ
The Knead for Bread
What is it about bread that fills us with satisfaction and comfort? Why does the smell of baking bread fill our senses with pleasure and evoke nostalgic memories of childhood or holidays?
Bread is fundamental. Humanity has broken bread to connect and nourish since our earliest beginnings. Bread is unique among foods. It’s an everyday food with a wealth of meaning that goes well beyond its nutritional value.
The pandemic started a banana bread and sourdough frenzy. First, anxious shoppers hoarded loaves of bread from the grocery store, emptying shelves before we even began wearing face masks. In response, many people took matters in their own hands and began baking their own bread. But flour mills couldn’t keep up with the demand, leaving grocery store shelves barren and sending bakers on a search for online flour sources. Yeast then became difficult to find, leading to the booming sourdough trend.
So, why has the world joined the baking boom? Some people say that it started because, for the first time in a long time, they have time. Others will say that it’s a way to connect, to connect with themselves and indeed with others. Baking bread is a new way of communicating. Social media platforms are awash with proud posts of baked creations that would sit nicely in any bakery in Paris. Baking bread has allowed people to feel successful in a time where there are many challenges and so much uncertainty.
Basically, bread-making has brought back some of life’s simple pleasures that had become lost over the years. It fits in with us creating new rituals such as daily walks, zoom cocktails with family and friends, not to mention the odd binge watch on Netflix.
Baking, especially when it’s done for others, can bring a host of psychological benefits. It’s a productive form of self-expression and communication, a form of mindfulness, a healthy distraction. In reality, baking can be a tremendous source of stress relief.
I too have become a hobby baker. To be honest, it took me by surprise as up to that point, I had tried to avoid all contact with the kitchen other than to do the dishes after my beloved hubby (who’s a very fine chef), had made yet another delicious meal. I recall that Sunday morning in June, when the entire household was asleep, with classical music in the background, I made my first loaf of brown bread. When the kids got up, they asked what the lovely smell was. Something triggered in me that as a Mammy, this was my chance to follow what my own Mammy and generations of Mammy’s had done over the years to feed their families. (Of course, the Daddys and kids themselves are now expert bakers too). And that’s great altogether.
In my journey as a budding baker, It hasn’t always been plain sailing (or baking). I’ve had many mishaps, ranging from omitting key ingredients to heating the oven to the wrong temperature right through to the sound of the smoke alarm blaring as a result of bread burned to a crisp. In making Guinness and walnut bread, I’ve also been in a sticky situation with treacle and golden syrup all over the shop. But as they say, practice makes perfect. Well, perfect enough in my baking book.
I enjoy the sensory experience of combining the simple ingredients, the aroma that fills the house as the bread bakes, peeking into the oven to see it rise, the hollow tap to ensure it’s done, proudly displaying it to cool on the rack and finally, the first bite into a warm slice. Yum!
So, give us our daily bread and we’re going to be ok. We’ll bake our way back to a shared connection that takes us from the past to the present and onto the future.
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