This year for the first time, I entered bread in the Minnesota State Fair competition. In retrospect I question the whole idea of a bread-baking contest. Bread is about nourishment, not competition. I don't bake for ribbons; I bake to share with friends and family.
Nowhere have I seen this ideal better presented than in The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking, by Brother Rick Curry, S.J. This book is as much a spiritual exercise as a cookbook.
Brother Curry, who as a Jesuit novice worked in his novitiate's bakery, weaves storytelling with recipes and prayer with cooking tips. His book celebrates the richness of bread and its power to nourish both body and soul.
A baker's greatest gift is patience - the dough must come together and rise at least twice. This has been my greatest challenge as a baker, but Curry sheds new light on this time spent with bread dough. During preparation, he connects with God and himself. Following the model of Ignatian exercises as the bread rises and bakes, he focuses on his day, the people with whom he comes in contact, his challenges and gifts, actions and inactions. In that intimate quiet time, as the smell of baking bread fills the kitchen, the struggles of a day are given over in gratitude to God.
That spirit of prayerfulness continues throughout Curry's technical suggestions. From the Ignatian pedagogical method of repetition to the respect for "sacred tools" in the kitchen, Curry presents baking as the whole-body, whole-spirit exercise it can be. And the results are both fulfilling and filling.