I bake bread because I’m addicted to measurable success. How good does it taste? How beautiful does it look? When it comes out of the oven I know whether I’ve succeeded or not. I don’t really need anyone else to tell me—I know; I can taste it.
I enjoy the successes of bread-making too much, though. I can’t eat everything I bake, so I give some away. This is one of my favourite parts of making bread now. At first, I rather enjoyed people’s praise. They praised the bread but they also praised me. Bread doesn’t just happen after all, which is why it’s a cornerstone of civilization. I don’t care how smart chimps and dolphins are: they don’t bake bread.
Also unlike chimps and dolphins, I really like accomplishing things and succeeding, so much so that I’m always thinking about what constitutes success and what I’m accomplishing. You may have guessed it already, but I write; and I want to be a writer. I will probably gauge my success in writing this—what you’re reading right now—on how many page views, likes, shares, and comments it gets. That’s ok, but it’s also terrible. This a paradox, but paradoxes are worth thinking over because they can be true.
A good friend of mine who is a food blogger and photographer once instagram’d one of my loaves. She praised the taste and texture, which was nice, but this bit of internet limelight helped me realize something about my bread-making. I don’t think I relish being a good baker, or even a successful writer. Rather, I love the bread and the paragraphs, pages, and books. All I do is rearrange some flour, water, and yeast (with a pinch of salt), that’s all; I do the same with words. Bakers and writers are the sub-creators of the daily grind. What they do is magnificent because of the goodness of the raw materials.
So, when I share my bread now, bread that could easily be someone else’s, I just want people to enjoy the goodness of the bread; not my skill, ability or even my generosity. I’m glad people like it and praise it—I do too! But not because I made it well; there was something good there to begin with: the good gift of ingredients, whether pushed up from the ground or bubbling up from heart and soul.
Next time you break bread, say thanks to the one who give growth to wheat and words alike. I hope you enjoyed this slice.