The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.
Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made
is star-stuff too?
– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –
dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.
Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.
Sunday, 27 May 2012
A voice I recognise, albeit not named, is speaking about bread. I didn't copy this down so it's a paraphrase, but it's pretty close to Satish Kumar's* original words:
'Bread is the macrocosm's micro-. The sun is in bread. The moon is in bread. The rain is in bread. The soil is in bread. The farmer, the baker, the eater are all in bread. Bread contains all the elements, and for that reason it's the macrocosm in miniature.'
After that a Frenchman is speaking about the significance of bread; and how until, I believe, the late 1980s bread was deemed sufficiently important to have its price capped by the government.
I love the fundamental simplicity of all this; the stapleness of bread.
In our household we usually make bread in the machine; we only eat our own bread, and we don't live close to shops so homemade bread is a genuine staple. This way we know that the bread we eat is wholesome organic wholemeal, with no rubbish added.
I use spelt flour, the 'neolithic' flour, a genuinely ancient variety, as I seem to have a sensitivity to ordinary wheat, which is a (relatively) late addition to the British diet. I've found out recently that a wheat intolerance is common among the Celtic peoples: our local grain would have been barley, oats or rye, as ordinary wheat doesn't grow so well in the Celtic fringes (presumably spelt was a much earlier introduction to the British Isles).
There's friendly rivalry between TM and I. Even using a machine the results are not foolproof. In my mind an ideal loaf is high and domed. Usually, although I get the height I don't get the dome; and if I do the bread crumbles too easily. I like to add eg onions and fresh herbs, or olives and sundried tomatoes, or flax seed, pumpkin seed and walnut; or raisins and berries.
TM's loaves until recently didn't rise much and were, for my taste, a little damp and holey. He's snotty about adding anything except walnuts or maybe pumpkin seeds. Recently, however, he's cracked it: his loaves are domed (tick) but quite dense and low (hmmm) – but taste completely delicious. What's more, they hold together for sandwiches and toast.
Occasionally, though, I still make bread by hand. However delicious the machine-made bread is, it's nothing compared with the 'real thing', and shop-bought bread is so often almost a travesty (though I'm aware there's a flush of artisan bakers now in Britain).
Making bread by hand is almost a meditation; and the result extraordinarily satisfying. There truly is nothing like it. Try it, if you don't already. I promise it'll add all the baked-in elements – earth water air and fire – to your table. Share it with friends – that's the true meaning of 'companion': 'com pane', those with whom we share bread. Seems to me you could call breadmaking an act of love...
* Satish Kumar is an ex-Jain monk; the founder-editor of 'Resurgence' magazine, and the visionary behind Schumacher College.
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