Stories to savour

I read a nice piece by Madronna Holden on her blog Our Earth/Ourselves. She tackles the larger theme of the story of consumer products, reminding readers of Wendell Berry's remark that we should not eat any food we are not willing to pray over.

Well, that's me starving to death right there, because I pray to nothing over nothing.

Like Madronna, though, I do, however, think that it is a good thing to be able to tell a story associated with what we're eating, and preferably one with some meat to it, some human involvement. It doesn't have to be about hand-knitted muesli either. I go to the local supermarket often enough, and the supermarket is anachronistic enough, that there are stories I can tell. Like the one about the woman at the deli counter who, after she had served me my olives and my bit of cheese asked, as is routine, if I needed bread. No, I had just baked some that morning. Oh good for you, she replied. Ours is good, but homemade is better.

And from now on, I have another bread story to tell, at least for some of my loaves. I went to a bread-making course last Sunday, at the very famous restaurant Necci dal 1924. It's a hipster groovester place in a hip and groovy neighbourhood, occupied on a Sunday morning by as perfect assortment of hipsters and groovesters as would have been supplied by Central Casting. And then there were the bread-makers, 10 of us, under the fine care of two young women from the Casa del Cibo.

There's a lot more I could (and will) say about the course itself. My focus here is on the end of the day, when we gathered around and sampled the bread we had made. It was at that point that we were inducted, as it were, into the secret Confraternity of the Pasta Madre Network of Urban Breadmakers. We were to receive our very own portion of the pasta madre, the wild sourdough yeasts and bacteria that had raised our loaves that morning, and that would henceforth raise our bread at home. The starter is 100-years old, and as Lucilla pressed sticky bundles into styrofoam espresso cups, Gaida read a little pledge.

In receiving from the Casa del Cibo this hundred-year-old pasta madre, of Tuscan lineage, I undertake to take care of it, to nourish it and honour it, permitting it to multiply in my home. I undertake further to use my hands and mind to interweave the tradition of bread with my own desires and appetites. I will cultivate new shoots of knowledge and will share all my doubts and my discoveries with other members of the Confraternity via the internet. (My translation)

That's kind of nice. Personally, I think more could have been made of the handing-over ceremony. We could have each read the pledge ourselves. We could have been handed our styrofoam cups one at a time, with a little pomp. If this thing really has been going for more than a century, it deserves a little more respect. No matter. It got what it got.

My other sourdough starter I made for myself about 20 years ago and have kept going since, and that's one story. Now I have another. And different breads.

P.s. 24 April 2019: I was tickled that the sites linked to a decade ago all still exist, although the Casa del Cibo has been dormant since April 2013, and the Necci site is way too groovy for its own good.

As for making more of the ceremony, I do that in my own bread courses. People seem to like it, and it makes for a suitable ritual at the end of the day.

General Bread and Cheese

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