Friday, April 23, 2010

Breaking Bread

Are you getting tired of hearing about my favorite local Italian bread store yet? ’Cause I just can’t talk enough about it.

assortment of baked bread The Saturday after Easter, I went in to pick up a fresh round loaf of bread for dinner. As I walked in the door, I was reminded why I love going there. It isn’t just for the fresh, authentic breads imported from Hoboken; it’s also the store’s welcoming atmosphere. I walk in the front door and I’m recognized and appreciated as a repeat customer. I’m greeted (as all customers are) with a friendly hello — usually “Hi there, Hon!”— and I’m made to feel that my business is truly wanted.

There is cheerful conversation (“How was your Easter?”), and the owners are thankful for each $6.50 sale. The shop is small and reminiscent of a city store – the hustle and bustle of locals seeking fresh food, made from quality ingredients. Suburbia doesn’t have near enough of these little shops to suit me (call me a snob, if you must; I can take it) … but who doesn’t want to feel welcomed and appreciated? Isn’t that why Norm and Cliff always returned to Cheers, after all? And it’s the reason why this newly opened store is already looking to expand to two additional sites in Central Pennsylvania, even in our current recession.

Speaking of bread, it isn’t often that I talk religion. My faith is held closely in my heart, and mine only. I’m not one to discuss God when I gather with friends, and you’ll never find me trying to convert another human being. Religion — I believe — is an individual journey. We all must find our place and do with it what we will. And I choose to respect others’ choices and hope that they will respect mine in return.

Of course, how to instill a sense of religion in my children is a whole different story. I was brought up Catholic, my husband Methodist, and how best to guide our children until they can make their own choices as adults is a challenge to us. So, early on we have taken the known road of Catholicism. And this year, in just a few weeks, my daughter will make her First Holy Communion.

Our church does a neat thing for First Communion — it holds a half-day retreat, where each child makes their Communion banner, goes to Confession, sings songs, eats dinner together, and my favorite part, bakes their own loaf of bread. The bread leader is iStock_000009735453XSmallamazing — walking the children through each ingredient and its importance as it relates to Jesus. For example, when the flour is added, the children are reminded of all God’s wonderful creations, “especially the wheat of the fields.” The oil is reminiscent of the holy oil received at Baptism, and with the sugar, the children give thanks to Jesus “for bringing sweetness to the world.”

Me? I don’t do any of this creative stuff. I am the worker bee, the mom who stands in the kitchen preparing the water to the proper temperature before each group comes to make their bread, the mom who puts the pans into the oven and 22 minutes later takes them out, the mom who washes dishes. It is my calling, the kitchen. That’s where you’ll always find me. Don’t ask me to lead crafts or games … I’m not very patient with glue or hula hoops. But if you need someone in an apron, taking direction and getting things done … well, then give me a call.

The night of the retreat, my daughter brought home her loaf of bread. We sat around the kitchen table, she read the prayer she received with her bread, and we cut the bread and ate it as a family, my mother included. My daughter, she will be the most religious of us all, I have no doubt. Jesus already lives in her heart; she loves the statues, the stories, the music, the prayers, and religious tradition in general. She asks about Mary and the Stations of the Cross, and doesn’t fight the system like me, her mother, who battled unsuccessfully for years in the 1970s to be an altar girl — not because I really wanted to be one, but because I wasn’t allowed to.

I always thought it was my husband’s and my job to somehow guide her, but I was wrong. That higher being embraced her a long time ago. And it’s probably a good thing. I’m really no example. But then again, perhaps she and her brother are blessed to have us as parents: no matter what religious road each chooses when they are adults, we will respect their decisions and support their journeys. And maybe that’s exactly the right thing for us to do. My daughter, my son … they may both be lucky after all.

Today, I offer the recipe for the Communion Retreat Bread. It’s relatively easy and a good deal of fun to make, especially with children. I, however, am taking the week off. I miss the purveyors of the local Italian bread store, and I just know there will be one round loaf — sliced — with my name on it. I’m thinking toast … pane tostato … for breakfast tomorrow.

(Click here to view and print recipe for Communion Retreat Bread)

For other good recipes posted today from around the globe, check out Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum!

Easy White Bread on Foodista


Donna F. said...

Maria - How many times can I say it? I love your blog!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

What a wonderful post Maria! I never heard of this custom but I think it adds to the specialness of the sacrament. Congratulations and many blessings to you daughter.
How well I remember my first Holy Communion!

stephanie said...

Well done Maria! You certainly don't get that feeling when you walk into Walmart to buy something! You could be the breadstore spokeswoman! Great post as always!!!!!

Wendy said...

We need to get over there! Everyone is talking about how good it is!