Overture to Death by Ngaio Marsh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Classic "cozy", and another strong narration job by Nadia May. Always a pleasure, even when I figure out the answers early and we don't get any Troy! Finished it today, a rainy, windy afternoon, as I worked on the twins' Christmas stockings. Nice!
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Making Bread, Breaking Bread.
Tomorrow, in the United Church of Christ calendar at least, is worldwide Communion Sunday. For several years now, my local church has also used the day to celebrate our local harvest and locally grown food, using blueberry juice and locally-made bread for Communion. Today, as I was making the bread, I started to think about the various directions and connections that this act of bread making pointed to.
The recipe I use is usually either "Grandma Leamon's oatmeal bread," or "anadama bread," both out of the notebook of recipes my mom made for each member of our family years ago. Grandma Leamon was my paternal grandmother, long-time Congo-pastor's wife, amazing cook, and beloved grandmother. The story of "anadama bread" is one my brother used to beg my mom to tell and retell. Both breads were staples in my family-of-origin, and we all learned to bake both as we grew up.
The step that the anadama bread has that the other doesn't is the proofing of the dough; with the double batch the sponge threatens to spill out onto the counter, and I divide it into a second bowl just in time. As I stir the fizzing mass down, I think about the yeast, about the growth it inspires, and about the incredible science and chemistry of this process. There's something else happening here, too: a fuzzy reflection about how the yeast makes the bread rise and expand, how tomorrow the congregation will come together to be nourished and then head off into our other lives, fed and lifted (we hope) by the experience of Communion. I am never sure what I think about Communion--both as a Congregationalist Protestant and as a pragmatist--but I sure know what I think about feeding people, and I know that it's one of the most elemental forms of care one can provide. Jesus got that, too, and the idea of celebrating Communion, of celebrating the act of eating, even or especially with something as simple as homemade bread, with a community of people who choose to come together: yup. That works for me.
As I mix the cornmeal, the molasses, the flour, the yeast, the smells and colors fit perfectly with the October woods and leaves outside. I knead the dough (a double batch) and feel grateful for my strong arms, my hands that know how to move the dough, the silky flour that I work into the messy dough until it turns smooth and firm itself. As I think of the bread I'm creating, I think of how much people love it--this leftover bread doesn't go out to the birds on anyone's feeder! I've started making extra so I can give our minister, who loves anadama, a loaf, and so we can be sure there is some left over for coffee hour, even. Again, that joy, that pleasure in the taste and texture of real food, made by a real person with real ingredients and deliberate care: the whole process seems to gain a level of grace. That grace is not due to me, for sure, though I did change my sweatshirt to limit the pet hair that might float into the dough as I kneaded, and I pulled my own hair back and washed my hands carefully and often. No, I'm no saintly sanctified baker angel, but as a creator of this miracle of yeasty, sweet smelling bread, and as the thinker of this long and rambling meditation on making and breaking bread, I am a small part of this incredible cycle of longing, memory, feeding, and hunger that ends in Communion, and continues onward in Communion. See you Sunday.
First draft. Unedited, but I wanted to get it down. 10/3/14.