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We Don’t Buy Bread: A Crusade for Happy Eating & Gentler Consumption

As I sit to write this, my kitchen is full of the smell of mushrooms, garlic, onions, and yeast. God, I love the smell of yeast. Good thing, too, given how often I go through it.

This morning’s loaf is a stuffed mushroom and herb bread in anticipation of the bruschetta I’m planning for dinner tonight. We’ll see how much of this loaf actually makes it to the final dish, because listen, if you’ve ever had a freshly baked anything in front of you and have not immediately devoured it, I’m not sure we can be friends.

I’ve also got a loaf of brioche resting in the fridge.

Because buns.

Obviously.


We have not bought a loaf of bread from the supermarket in nearly three years.


Maybe it started with my obsession surrounding The Great British Bake Off. Maybe I’d gotten it in my head to read a few too many ingredient labels when doing the food shopping. Maybe my financial panic had me taking a closer look at where the grocery budget was going. Maybe I was desperate for a fun and exciting activity my daughter and I could do together that might teach us both a new skill.

Whatever it was, whether there was some kind of inciting incident or I just woke up and decided I would become a baker, we have not bought a loaf of bread from the supermarket in nearly three years.

Ours is better anyhow.

A dear friend of ours is a baker. She taught me about meringue icing and profiteroles and that there are different styles of buttercream. I still use her choux pastry recipe when I’m in the mood for eclairs and the last time we visited, I shamelessly raided her kitchen for tools and ingredients to make another friend’s wedding cake.

But as much as I love the fancy stuff, the sweets, the petit fours, the decorations…

I really, really love bread.


Naan and English muffins and babka and rye. All of it has come through our kitchen at least once.


There is something sturdy and homey and comforting about bread that I don’t seem to find with anything else I eat, and I love food. Whether it’s the delightful yeasty smell or the steam that rolls up when I rip open a fresh loaf or the softness against my tongue as I take the first bite, there’s a steadfast, ancient quality to bread that I connect with.

And perhaps that’s putting way too much pressure on a food as seemingly pedestrian as bread, but the beauty of commonality is versatility. So long as I have a few cups of good flour and my trusty jar of starter, the world is my oyster. We need sandwich bread for lunches tomorrow? Got it. We need something to bring as a snack to a party? Perfect. Out comes the barstool for my daughter to perch herself atop and out come the aprons in anticipation of lots of mess. Naan and English muffins and babka and rye. All of it has come through our kitchen at least once.

There’s a gleeful component to it all. Who cares if we’re covered in a dusted sheet of flour by the time we’re done kneading? We’ll have bread soon, so it’s all good.

I remember at one point growing truly angry with how I saw the portrayal of women eating bread. Scenes from films where Hollywood sweethearts, gorgeous and talented women, reciting lines that implied they should not be eating what they were eating… what in the actual hell was I seeing? The self-hatred and regret and resentment that seemed to go along with consuming carbs was not only befuddling to me, but deeply bothersome.

More than once, I’ve been out to eat with friends or family, and I’ve heard someone say something along the lines of “Oh, no, I really shouldn’t” when the bread basket came to the table.

Of course you should. You must. And add butter as well.


More than anything, I want her to understand that there is nothing at all that is shameful about eating exactly what you want when you want it.


This hang up we all have, and women in particular, that carbs are evil, that gluten is evil, that the idea of weight gain is terrifying, that we lose our value the second we add a pound. I grew up surrounded by it, and the more conscious of it I become, the more I want to lock my daughter in our own little bubble for the rest of the world and shield her from this influence.

So we make bread together. If I am her primary role model, I want her to see that this is  special, what we’re doing. I want her to share in the creation of something that brings us both joy. I want her to smile when she tastes a new loaf and for her to see me reach for a second piece.

More than anything, I want her to understand that there is nothing at all that is shameful about eating exactly what you want when you want it.

On top of all of this, I’m ready to start a riot over plastic bags.

Whoa, Mary. I thought we were talking about bread?

Yup, and we still are. Gimme a moment, I’m leading up to it.

I go to the grocery store and I go through my list (or I’ve forgotten it again and I simply wander). Bell peppers, check. Peanut butter, check. Ice cream, you know it.

And everywhere (everywhere) plastic.


I’m done hearing that I should be taking instead of making


I understand its convenience. I understand its durability. I even understand its cycle. Pop it in the blue bin each week and you’ve done your job as a responsible environmentalist, right?

Mmmmmm, not quite.

Because when is the last time anyone tried to recycle the plastic bags their sandwich bread came in? I never have. It’s estimated that over 100,000 marine animals are killed by plastic bags each year and it’s because less than one percent of single use plastic bags are properly recycled.

And I’m not saying we’re perfect about it. I’ve forgotten my reusable totes and I’ve grabbed more than my share of road trip snacks from gas stations across the nation. But I think I’ve hit my limit with a market that seems to constantly bombard me with the message of never-ending consumerism. I’m done hearing that I should be taking instead of making.

There’s a term that’s grown in popularity in recent years. Slow consumption. It’s this radical idea that we do not, in fact, add value to our lives by buying anything and everything we can the instant we see it. It’s a philosophy that says we should take what we need…

And no more.

I don’t need another bag to pile up in my garbage can. I don’t need more ingredients I can’t pronounce. I don’t need to spend four dollars on a brand bread when making it myself is the equivalent of eighty cents (why, yes, I did do the math).

What I need is time with my little one. What I need is to teach her that there are more important things in life than shopping for the sake of showing off that you have something new and shiny. What I need is to share with people something I crafted, made with a skill that I honed, given with care.

What I need is to cut a slice of this mushroom loaf that’s just nearly finished.


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