Posted on Leave a comment

Blessed

Most days, making bread happens by rote, with a tight schedule of measuring, mixing, shaping, and baking. My mind can be tranquil while my hands are a blur, punching and kneading the dough. Or slicing off chunks with the bench knife, balancing them on the weigh scale, and turning them into sensuous rounds.

Not much distracts me from this sort of reverie. Music or podcasts might be pleasant additions, but I’m likely to turn them off if they take me too far away from the dough. A big spill or a measuring mistake can pull me off my game, but the quiet mind is never far away.

I bake the loaves early, through first light and morning birdsong. Hands working in a blur again, turning rounds of dough out onto the bakers’ peel, brushing off loose flour, scoring and loading them into the oven. I work fast to conserve Mildrith’s heat. 1

Into the oven

It’s hard to let go once the oven doors are closed for the bake! The bread is out of my hands, but there is a nagging sense that it could still wobble and fall, over-bake or blacken into a lump of coal. Making coffee can distract me, but my mind is still on the dough.

Then, behold the miracle as the loaves emerge, golden, brown, charred along the score lines, radiating delicious heat and heady aroma. They crackle and sing on the sheet pans as I carry them inside the house.

A miracle of transformation, a blessing of sustenance, the bread “raising its radiance to the moon!” 2

It’s just a loaf of bread

It may seem gaudy, these allusions to miracle, blessing and sustenance in making bread. As if it’s an act of priesthood or artistry when we’re talking about something as unpretentious as a loaf of bread.

But when I hand a still-warm loaf to a customer, see them embrace it, and hold it close to their tummy, I’m pleased they feel the same connection to bread as I do. They may open the bag and breathe in the aroma or explain that a pot of soup is waiting on the stove and they want to hurry home to lunch. Or could they have an extra loaf to give as a gift to a friend?

The bread is an offering to the table, family or friends gathered around. A humble offering, the staff of life is universally recognized and valued. It rises as grain from the earth, is milled by the miller and baked by the baker. So many transformations, there really is a sense of the miraculous!

Reverence

Richard Levine’s “Bread” poem captures this reverence for bread. It’s about these transformations that hint at something mystical. 

Bread

Each night, in a space he’d make
between waking and purpose,
my grandfather donned his one
suit, in our still dark house, and drove
through Brooklyn’s deserted streets
following trolley tracks to the bakery.

There he’d change into white
linen work clothes and cap,
and in the absence of women,
his hands were both loving, well
into dawn and throughout the day—
kneading, rolling out, shaping

each astonishing moment
of yeasty predictability
in that windowless world lit
by slightly swaying naked bulbs,
where the shadows staggered, woozy
with the aromatic warmth of the work.

Then, the suit and drive, again.
At our table, graced by a loaf
that steamed when we sliced it,
softened the butter and leavened
the very air we’d breathe,
he’d count us blessed.

Poem copyright ©2012 by Richard Levine from his collection, A Tide of a Hundred Mountains, Bright Hill Press. “Bread” is reprinted here with Mr. Levine’s permission. This poem, as well as others, can be viewed on the Poetry Foundation website.

It’s a startling poem! The grandfather, changing into his baker whites, transforms into a kind of monk or sorcerer in his white linen work clothes (“in the absence of women”).

Blessed

The bakery is an ethereal world lit by swaying naked bulbs, “woozy with the aromatic warmth of the work.” And the dough that is kneaded, rolled and shaped at the bakery transforms into a loaf at his family’s table that steams and softens the butter and “leavens the very air we’d breathe.”

And inspires the simple benediction at the end, that the table and those around it … are blessed.


Richard Levine is a New York-based poet, retired teacher, ex-soldier and activist who has published numerous poetry collections and chapbooks. You can read more about him, including more of his poems, at the Richard Levine website.


Happy Monk Tidings - November 30, 2022 🍞 - Bakers Choice: Cranberry-Pecan Sourdough; BLOG: Tassajara Wisdom/Perfect Loaf Mastery; REMINDER: Happy Monk holidays fast approaching! [ See LinkTree in Profile ]
.
.
.
.
#theperfectloaf #perfectloaf #perfectloaf #maurizioleo #tassajarabreadbook #tassajarabread #tassajaracookbook

Happy Monk Tidings - November 30, 2022 🍞 - Bakers Choice: Cranberry-Pecan Sourdough; BLOG: Tassajara Wisdom/Perfect Loaf Mastery; REMINDER: Happy Monk holidays fast approaching! [ See LinkTree in Profile ]
.
.
.
.
#theperfectloaf #perfectloaf #perfectloaf #maurizioleo #tassajarabreadbook #tassajarabread #tassajaracookbook
...

32 5
Happy Monk Tidings - November 16, 2022 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Spelt & Toasted Buckwheat Sourdough; BLOG: Mysticism and Bob Dylan; Extra: Happy Monk Search [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - November 16, 2022 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Spelt & Toasted Buckwheat Sourdough; BLOG: Mysticism and Bob Dylan; Extra: Happy Monk Search [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

22 0
Just rockin’ the Olive Sourdough at 4:30 a.m. in the morning. Into Mildrith’s fire they go!
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
 
#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bakerslife #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #breadmaking🍞 #sourdough #sourdoughbread #coboven #earthoven #earthenoven #olives #olivebread #olivesourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #penderisland

Just rockin’ the Olive Sourdough at 4:30 a.m. in the morning. Into Mildrith’s fire they go!
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
 
#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bakerslife #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #breadmaking🍞 #sourdough #sourdoughbread #coboven #earthoven #earthenoven #olives #olivebread #olivesourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #penderisland
...

85 13
Happy Monk Tidings - November 2, 2022 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Cinnamon-Raisin Bread; BLOG: A Vancouver Neighbourhood; BOOK OF THE WEEK: The Philosophy of Modern Song by Bob Dylan [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - November 2, 2022 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Cinnamon-Raisin Bread; BLOG: A Vancouver Neighbourhood; BOOK OF THE WEEK: The Philosophy of Modern Song by Bob Dylan [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

7 6
Happy Monk Tidings - October 26, 2022 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Apple Rye Bread; REPRISE BLOG: Out here the mind would empty. [ See Linktree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - October 26, 2022 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Apple Rye Bread; REPRISE BLOG: Out here the mind would empty. [ See Linktree in Profile ] ...

33 1
Happy Monk Tidings - October 19, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Sprouted Kamut Bread - ORDER TODAY; Blog Reprise: Here's to the Homely Loaf!; EXTRA: Trapped in Bread! [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - October 19, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Sprouted Kamut Bread - ORDER TODAY; Blog Reprise: Here's to the Homely Loaf!; EXTRA: Trapped in Bread! [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

21 0
Happy Monk Tidings - October 12, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: The Approachable Loaf; BLOG: The Gingham Tablecloth at Nick's Spaghetti House; NOTE: An Ordering Hack [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - October 12, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: The Approachable Loaf; BLOG: The Gingham Tablecloth at Nick's Spaghetti House; NOTE: An Ordering Hack [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

22 0
Happy Monk Tidings - October 5, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Pender Island Apple Bread; Update: False COVID scare - back in business; VIDEOS: Pizza is Art; Or it isn't! [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - October 5, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Pender Island Apple Bread; Update: False COVID scare - back in business; VIDEOS: Pizza is Art; Or it isn't! [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

30 0
Happy Monk Tidings - September 28, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: The Approachable Loaf; Blog: This Island of Apples; South Pender Growers and Makers Market [ See LinkTree in Profile ]
.
.
.
#apples #applebread #applelove #approachable #approachableloaf #breadlabcollective #breadlab

Happy Monk Tidings - September 28, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: The Approachable Loaf; Blog: This Island of Apples; South Pender Growers and Makers Market [ See LinkTree in Profile ]
.
.
.
#apples #applebread #applelove #approachable #approachableloaf #breadlabcollective #breadlab
...

21 0
Happy Monk Tidings - September 21, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Harvest Bread; BLOG: Greetings from St. Francis and Mildrith; The Wood-Fired Oven's Back in Business [ See LinkTree in Profile]

Happy Monk Tidings - September 21, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Harvest Bread; BLOG: Greetings from St. Francis and Mildrith; The Wood-Fired Oven's Back in Business [ See LinkTree in Profile] ...

17 0
Introducing this bread, Raven Ring Bread (a take on Hapanleipä, a Finnish bread) a recipe borrowed from @ravenbreads. The stand is made by my neighbour, Ken, a gifted woodworker. See you at the South Pender Growers and Makers Market, if it don’t rain too hard!

Introducing this bread, Raven Ring Bread (a take on Hapanleipä, a Finnish bread) a recipe borrowed from @ravenbreads. The stand is made by my neighbour, Ken, a gifted woodworker. See you at the South Pender Growers and Makers Market, if it don’t rain too hard! ...

66 5
Happy Monk Tidings - September 2, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice : Volkornbrot (German Rye); Blog: The Golden Loaf of Gorsefield Rye; NOTE: We're closing two weeks for Mildrith Maintenance [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - September 2, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice : Volkornbrot (German Rye); Blog: The Golden Loaf of Gorsefield Rye; NOTE: We're closing two weeks for Mildrith Maintenance [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

21 0
Happy Monk Tidings - August 24, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice this week: Spelt and Honey Sourdough; Blog: The Great Kind Mystery; SPECIAL NOTE: Mildrith needs an upgrade [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - August 24, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice this week: Spelt and Honey Sourdough; Blog: The Great Kind Mystery; SPECIAL NOTE: Mildrith needs an upgrade [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

40 0
It was a dirty day, Wednesday. The sky hadn't been washed, the ocean was soiled, and the air was muggy and smelled oily. Then, moments before the rain started, the sun shone through and a glorious slash of colour opened up. And a rainbow! No unicorns, sadly.

It was a dirty day, Wednesday. The sky hadn't been washed, the ocean was soiled, and the air was muggy and smelled oily. Then, moments before the rain started, the sun shone through and a glorious slash of colour opened up. And a rainbow! No unicorns, sadly. ...

55 4
Happy Monk Tidings - August 3, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Anadama Bread; BLOG: Dog Days of Summer; Special Note: No Bread August 19 [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - August 3, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Anadama Bread; BLOG: Dog Days of Summer; Special Note: No Bread August 19 [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

35 1
Dog days. The beginning of summer mellowness. Baked in languor. But sometimes it's hard to let go. Shouldn't I be baking something? [See LinkTree in Profile ]
.
.
.
.
.
.
#penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery
#happymonkbakingcompany #dogdays #dogdaysofsummer #southerngulfislands
#southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #southerngulfislandsbc

Dog days. The beginning of summer mellowness. Baked in languor. But sometimes it's hard to let go. Shouldn't I be baking something? [See LinkTree in Profile ]
.
.
.
.
.
.
#penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery
#happymonkbakingcompany #dogdays #dogdaysofsummer #southerngulfislands
#southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #southerngulfislandsbc
...

37 0
Happy Monk Tidings - July 27, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Whole Grain White Wheat; Blog: Call Me Ishmael; Video: How the U.S. Ruined Bread; Announcements [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - July 27, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Whole Grain White Wheat; Blog: Call Me Ishmael; Video: How the U.S. Ruined Bread; Announcements [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

26 0
Happy Monk Tidings - July 20, 2022 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Rye and Currants; BLOG: Blessed; EXTRA: World's Oldest Sourdough? [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - July 20, 2022 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Rye and Currants; BLOG: Blessed; EXTRA: World's Oldest Sourdough? [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

26 1
Happy Monk Tidings - July 13, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Bird Seed Bread; Blog: Down to the Crossroads, Medicine Beach; Baking your own bread guides - [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - July 13, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Bird Seed Bread; Blog: Down to the Crossroads, Medicine Beach; Baking your own bread guides - [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

31 0
This is James Morton, my father, who would have been 100 years old today if we hadn't lost him 36 years ago. I've surpassed him in living age and spent more years without him than with him, yet he still whispers in my ear and is a great listener when I talk to him. Taken at 14th Ave. and Burgess St., Burnaby, 'round about 1955. Handsome devil, ain't he?

This is James Morton, my father, who would have been 100 years old today if we hadn't lost him 36 years ago. I've surpassed him in living age and spent more years without him than with him, yet he still whispers in my ear and is a great listener when I talk to him. Taken at 14th Ave. and Burgess St., Burnaby, 'round about 1955. Handsome devil, ain't he? ...

57 10
Happy Monk Tidings - July 6, 2022 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Cinnamon-Raisin Bread; BLOG: Filling the Belly: Words vs. Loaves [ See LinkTree in profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - July 6, 2022 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Cinnamon-Raisin Bread; BLOG: Filling the Belly: Words vs. Loaves [ See LinkTree in profile ] ...

42 1


  1. Mildrith, the wood-fired cob oven and mother-muse-saint of the Happy Monk Baking Company. Read more about Mildrith here, and how she was built here.

  2. Quote from W.S. Merwin’s poem, “Bread

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.