It is said that firewood warms twice, first when it is chopped and then again when it burns. Similarly with bread, it nourishes twice, first when we mix and fold and knead it together, and then again when we savour the fruits of our labour. Crust and crumb nourish both body and soul. The joy that is baked into every loaf becomes leaven for our being.
My own interest in baking bread first developed for the most unlikely of reasons. I wanted to make life-sized, sculptures of animals and people. After exploring many options, I settled upon the idea of making them out of bread because it would be environmentally friendly, inexpensive, and it sounded like a whole lot of fun. Besides that, bread has always intrigued me. Bread is the staff of life, the food that nourishes us all; moreover, in some religious practices, this common substance, bread can be transformed to embody the presence of god. It remains the most common of foods, and at the same time the most sacred. Bread is a very special substance indeed.So, with absolutely no baking experience I dove into huge sacks of flour and packets of yeast. I made life-sized people entirely out of bread. I built each of these ‘BREADMAN’ installations in just a few days and some lasted for up to three months before being taken back by nature. These sculptures were surprisingly successful in galleries and museums across the United States. I then decided that I wanted to provide my baking assistants with tasty bread to nourish us all while we worked. And so I began to learn not just bread art, but also the art of baking good bread. This has turned into a passion ever since. I have been baking bread, building bread ovens and teaching bread workshops wherever I go. And, wherever I go, I have found that people love fresh bread and are invigorated by the activity of baking it.Inspired by my artistic and practical working with bread, I wrote creative stories, including the children’s picture book Dragon Baked Bread (published by Steiner Books). That has in turn led to Baking Bread With Children (published by Hawthorn Press) and is the genesis of this website.
One of the men that I had the privilege to bake with, was so inspired by baking our sourdough bread in the wood-fired bread oven at Emerson College that he wrote a whole series of haiku about this creative process:
Sourdough starter Haiku
Flour; water; patience