Studying The (Bread) Bible


I was vowing to eat fewer carbs this year, until I opened my Christmas present from Jake and Micah. It was The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, a beautifully written and authoritative recipe book.

I used to be my sons’ culinary cheerleader, but now they are mine. Before Jake and Micah embarked on independent lives (they both study far from home), I was determined to send them off with the skills and confidence to cook. Food is much more than sustenance for our family. It is an expression of joy and love, and intimate community.

My sons (and a beautiful challah)

My sons (and a beautiful challah)

Jake has by now surpassed me in the kitchen (and I am no slouch), and Micah is gaining ground. Jake has his own copy of The Bread Bible, and regularly texts me photos of his beautiful creations—brioche, beer bread, naan. This Christmas, he made us a gigantic loaf of challah, expertly braided, peppered with poppy seeds, and glistening with egg wash. I wanted to cradle and sniff this beautiful and fragrant loaf as if it were a newborn.

And now I have my own copy of The Bread Bible. Last Christmas, my boys gave us a different “food” item”—a pasta maker. They recalled that John and I used to own one early in our relationship, when we were university students. As we unwrapped the pasta maker last Christmas, Jake said, “now that Micah and I are out of the house, we thought you’d have fun reliving those old romantic days.”

They have grown up with our stories of how we cemented our love through a shared passion for food as university students—flipping through cookbooks, exploring the local market, and spending hours working side-by-side to make romantic candlelight dinners. I told my sons throughout their formative years that the surest way to a girl’s heart is through her stomach. And now, they are stepping up to the (dinner) plate.

I didn’t have the heart to tell them that we still owned the pasta maker from our 20’s. It had been relegated to a far shelf in the back basement long ago. Our “make-everything-from-scratch” days had come to an abrupt halt, when we traded our student lifestyle for busier careers and parenthood. We still ate well, family dinners were a priority, but making fettuccine from scratch seemed like unnecessary work when I could buy good packaged pasta up the street.

So when Jake and Micah came home for Reading Week last February, they were crestfallen that their Christmas gift hadn’t even made it out of its box. They had had visions of their parental units joyfully bonding over pasta-making, red wine in hand, stealing kisses in their empty nest. They clearly had put loving thought into their gift, wanting to buy us something special that showed how much they understood us. Instead, it had been tossed aside unceremoniously in the mudroom, taking up space like our original pasta maker downstairs. Jake took the new pasta-maker “home” with him after Reading Week, but not before putting us all to work in an assembly line of taggliatelle production using our old one.

We had been cutting corners, and the kids didn’t like it. Perhaps subconsciously they equate the effort we invest in food preparation with the overall health of our relationship. And it’s no wonder. This is the message we have drilled into them from a very early age.

So I am now studying The Bread Bible like a religious fanatic—learning about sponges, rising methods, and kneading techniques. So much for eating fewer carbs this year, but some things are just more important.

Photo credit:Flickr/Thomas Berg

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