The Staff of Life

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Maybe we don’t live by bread alone, but I think I could.  “The Staff of Life” satisfies hunger, but so much more.  It’s many things to many people.  Prehistoric man just ate the grains as he found them.  Unleavened bread was a part of many cultures like Mexican tortillas,  Scots oatcake, or Indian chapati.  Bread is also a symbol of fruitfulness and fertility.  The concept of a female grain exists in the folklore of many countries.  There is a “rye woman” in Denmark, a “baba” in Poland, and the Cherokee Indians have a ritual dance to “The Grandmother” of corn.  In Sweden, loaves of bread are fashioned in the shape of a female and eaten by the family to maintain health and fertility.  We even have the colloquialism of “a bun in the oven” for a child in the womb. 
All of these concepts are fine, but nothing beats having a slice of warm, homemade bread slathered in butter.  Oh, the joy.  Aren’t we all lucky that there are so many bread books.  The author of this book, Mariana Honig, first became interested in bread baking from her childhood days in Sweden.  Later, she traveled extensively and collected hundreds of bread recipes from around the world and includes recipes from 46 countries.  I can’t even begin to name all the recipes and countries, but you will not be disappointed in the variety.  There is Finnish rye bread, spicy almond bread from Turkey, rice bread from West Africa, gougere from France, broa from Portugal, kulich from Russia, and saffron cardamom braid from Sweden.  The recipes are for quick breads, sweet breads, sourdough, yeast, and even recipes for pancakes, waffles, and sandwiches. 

Find this book or grab your favorite bread book.  Become your own baker – you will eat better, stay healthier, and save money;  and not to mention even calming your nerves.  The best punching bag is a big ball of dough.  Who could be down in the dumps by participating in the magic of yeast rising?  Bread baking is a sensual and satisfying experience.  Take time to smell the bread.


4 Responses to The Staff of Life

  1. February 10, 2011 at 6:54 am #

    That looks like an interesting book. Given my New Year’s resolution to bake all of our bread for a year, I’m constantly searcing for new bread recipes to try. I’m currently reading Daniel Leader’s “Local Breads,” which focuses on artisan sourdough and whole grain breads from around the world. I’m a bit intimidated by sourdough, and the book is very technical and detailed. But I think I’m almost ready to take the plunge.

  2. February 10, 2011 at 7:23 am #

    Sourdough starter is so wonderful to have around; it just takes some work with weekly feeding and replenishing. I haven’t had a starter for a long time, but one of my brothers does it all the time and loves it.

  3. February 10, 2011 at 7:37 am #

    I was worried about starting a starter because I know we’ll be traveling a lot this year, and I know neglected starter doesn’t do very well. Lucky for me, the Chocolate and Zucchini blog has instructions for dehydrating and reconstituting starter. So I’m going to push my fears aside. The question is whether to start my own or order from King Arthur. I’m leaning towards the latter since it will reduce the intimidation factor.

  4. February 10, 2011 at 8:14 am #

    I read in Bernard Clayton’s bread book that if your starter is neglected for 3-4 weeks, it can be saved by dumping out half, and then just replenishing the other half. Those starter packets work fine. I have a couple sourdough cookbooks that included a packet of starter with the book.

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