The Purpose of Bread

Bread serves many purposes. It’s not just about eating to stay alive; it’s about eating to feel alive. People are drawn to a warm loaf of freshly baked bread like magnets. When a crusty loaf is set on the table with butter and salt, they gently (or sometimes not so gently) shift their weight towards it like they are being pulled in by some invisible force. Eagerly they wait their turn to tear a piece off and slather it with butter, a sprinkle of salt and bite through the crunchy crust into the warm, custardy interior. That is the feeling of being alive.

Bread is quite exciting. As a former professional chef turned baker I honestly don’t get excited about food very often anymore. The anticipation of biting into a crusty loaf sets off the tiniest of butterflies in my stomach, which rarely happens for me. The smell of bread and olive oil grilling on a piece of cast iron makes my mouth water, which is actually happening as I’m typing.

Bread grilled with olive oil

Bread fills in the gaps. It seems like there is a huge gap between great cooking, which is rare and expensive, and mediocre cooking which is common, cheap and what most people are exposed to because of the constraints of time and money. Bread fills the gap between the rare and the common. A great loaf is typically not priced so high that most people can’t obtain one. Once that great bread is found it can elevate the other food in our lives and our lives in general.

An oval of crusty bread

The staff of life literally supports life in far more ways than filling empty stomachs. For the baker it pays the bills, keeps water flowing and the heat on in cold winter months. More than once have I bartered a couple of loaves for some kind of service I couldn’t do myself. It feeds people, animals and plants when scraps find their way into the compost to nourish next years harvest. At the table it nourishes our bodies and fosters relationships. It’s an essential ingredient to life.

In March we lost our mother to lung cancer. That struggle and loss made me look at my own life and see what I was doing to honor people and justify my own existence on this planet. In time I realized that my job wasn’t special or unique. It was monotonous, tedious and could be performed by just about anyone. I had fallen into the trap of comfort and had been wasting my life for the sake of money. I had essentially become invisible to the world.

Susan and Joey when the

Bread is a bridge to variety. It’s extremely difficult for me to be consistent. Every morning I open my eyes and feel differently about the world than I did the day before. Each day is a battle to maintain the facade of consistency that society tries to lay on human beings. In order to cope with that I’ve started doing my own baking, which gives me a great deal of satisfaction, a sense of belonging and some diversity to the day. You can try some of that diversity at the SISQUOC BAKING COMPANY.

Dough balls ready for the dinner party

It’s been quite challenging because I’m not a professional baker and have very little baking experience under my belt. Just a room in the house converted into a cottage bakery business and the willingness to try and fail is about all we are starting with. It has been stressful but totally worth it because the time spent in the bakery is more meaningful to myself and to people.

A big part of this venture started with just accepting the fact that I’m different from most others and doing things that go against the grain is just fine. I’ve had to shut out conversations with certain people because they think to quit a job that provides predictable money and benefits but destroys your soul is crazy, but I don’t think so. Yes it’s harder but in a way there is more freedom if you’re willing to take the risk and can tolerate the ambiguity.

The SISQUOC BAKING COMPANY will serve many purposes. It will provide a service to a community that has few services. It will support the lives of family and friends, and hopefully contribute to making the world a better place to live, work and eat. So we’ll continue to nurture the seed of a bakery business and watch it grow like a tree planted in Sisquoc.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Mario Limon says:

    Allen I really enjoyed reading reading your stories. As too my mother was handed the crushing blow of being diagnosed with cancer a couple of months ago. And i too owe my passion for food and life to her. I found you words touching and encouraging and I wish you the best of luck.

    Mario Limon.

    1. Alan says:

      Thank you very much for the kind words.

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