I recently finished reading 52 Loaves: A Half-Baked Adventure. As many of you know, I love baking bread, which is why I wanted to read this book by William Alexander. In case you missed it, enjoy my post from a few weeks ago where I talk about Baking Day at our house.
What a premise!
Fifty-two weeks, fifty-two loaves of bread in the pursuit of creating the perfect artisan loaf of bread. One that is crusty on the outside, and airy and chewy inside And before you think to yourself – how boring is that? – read on.
Mr. Alexander excels at the scientific background of all the ingredients for a great loaf of bread. But in writing, he intersperses the dialogue with history, comedy and personal introspection. While I love to bake, I have never even considered growing my own wheat for flour, or making my own yeast from apples in my yard. He even constructs a brick fire oven in his back yard. But with each ingredient and aspect of his simple recipe, he brings himself and the reader closer and closer to understanding our basic human nature. A journey that connects us to the world around us and the food we eat.
Finally, towards the end of the book, our hobby baker determines he must travel to where bread is a daily religious experience…France. He enrolls in a week long baking course at the Ritz in Paris. But this part of his pilgrimage spills over in Morocco and finally to a secluded Benedictine abbey in Normandy. Here he lives and trains an apprentice monk baker to prepare and bake their daily bread.
This portion of the journey was my favorite. William was a religious skeptic to say the least, and his time with the monks changed his life. The rich cultural history, daily routine, the devotion to their service and prayer together with the beauty and solitude of the countryside, and his success at accomplishing the task of bringing fresh baked bread back to the abbey touched me deeply.
I wasn’t just being asked to train a monk or to bake some bread; I was being asked to repair a broken thirteen-hundred-year-old chain, to return fresh bread to the abbey, to reignite a tradition that had tragically been extinguished. It was an opportunity to repay a debt, to do for this abbey what the abbeys of Europe once did for the rest of us – keep knowledge alive during dark times.”Chapter 41, 52 Loaves: A Half-Baked Adventure
Bread can be personal.
I actually read the last few chapters several times as I didn’t want to miss anything that William was sharing of his time at the abbey. I found it personally uplifting and inspiring. It encouraged me to continue on my own path. To explore my personal journey in life using the talents God has gifted me. It made me want to be a better person; someone who is open to others and willing to help. Someone confident in themselves!
While 52 Loaves: A Half-Baked Adventure does include a few key recipes at the end of the book, it’s purpose is not to be a “cook-book”. For me this book is about challenges, purpose and life.
What I loved about this book;
- The interesting subject matter
- The writing style
- The great mix of information, interaction between people, and…the baking
In closing, I’m sharing one of my favorite quotes from the book:
Vespers, celebrated at day’s end, takes on the character of evening. The day is almost over, our work is done. This is the hour of wise age, of resting in thanksgiving and humility after the struggles, successes and failures of the day of one’s productive life.
I’m thinking, I’d like to have this quote read at my memorial service…whenever that time comes. For now, I think it’s time to go bake some bread! – Connie