The Beauty of the Ordinary: Bread


“…aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you…” 1 Thess. 4:11

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song about hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – JRR Tolkien

For many years the Lord has taken my eyes off glitter and shine and shown me, step by step, the beauty of ordinary life: good food, good friends, conversation, wine, beer, scotch, cake, earth under your fingers, books, flowers, stories, dogs, cheese, chocolate, pipes, coffee, home—the simple life. Normal, everyday, quiet, ordinary things. There is a very real magic here. There is the ordinary magic often missed by the world but cherished by the world too, when it stops to take a breath.

Over the last month and a half, my health has taken a dramatic upswing. It seems that almost all my problems stem from an issue with my body’s ability to make Vitamin B which inhibits my ability to process protein and pretty much everything else.

Now that I feel slightly more human, I am expanding my world again beyond the couch and TV. And lo and behold, a dear friend dropped a fun idea in my lap: BREAD.

Real, simple, fermented, yummy bread.

I love bread. I love all forms of bread, and especially artesian breads, not what is on the shelf in a plastic bag, but beautiful bread. Something with a nice chewy crust and a soft center. On Netflix there is a show called Cooked. I highly recommend it. Not only does it talk about wonderful food, it teaches you to appreciate the process of fermentation.

My bread project is all about creating natural yeast from the grain and from the air, also known as sourdough starter in the grand old USA. This yeast works with the gluten in the grain to release all the nutritional benefits of wheat and rye. Then you mix the starter with unbleached white flour, rye, water, and salt. This is your bread. No sugar. No processed junk. Just good, old fashioned grain and water.

My first batch of starter I named Fred. Fred and I got off to a rocky start due to my extra Dad’s week in the hospital. I wasn’t able to feed Fred twice a day and he developed a very strong alcohol smell which indicated he was starving. Sorry Fred.

Once the hospital stay was over, I returned to feeding Fred twice a day and he fattened up quickly, developing a nutty yeast smell and losing the alcohol scent. After about a week and a half of developing Fred, I was able to bake my first two loaves of bread. Boy, I was nervous. I worried I’d over work the bread, or it wouldn’t look right, or something. I searched YouTube for videos about kneading and baking sourdough bread.

Wednesday morning, bright and early I started my bread. This is an all-day project with lots of long breaks while your bread rises and fermentation reacts with the flour. Following the directions to the letter, I slipped my two loaves in the oven on a very hot day and waited.

Out they came, beautiful and smelling so wonderful. Success?

Well, we consumed the ¾ of the first loaf in one day. I think that speaks pretty highly to how it turned out.

Fred made great bread. But, I did run into an issue. Despite my dear friend Rachel’s help and the use of my calculator and double checking, making the two loaves took all my starter. Fred was gone. I had nothing left. Thankfully, Rachel had more starter to share with me.

George is now happily sitting on my counter waiting to be fed. I hope to make more bread next week. As I get more familiar with the process, I will start diverting from the recipes and making up my own stuff. I’m really excited to be making bread and can’t wait to start sharing it with my friends and family!

Happy eating! Here’s to enjoying the ordinary gifts of this life!


Starting a Starter:

Pain au Levain:(Baking Sourdough Bread)