Published in 2017. Order a copy of this and other volumes here.
The simple act of making bread, from sifting to baking, can evoke a flood of memories, anticipation, and reflection. We anticipate the scent of warm bread wafting through the home, the taste we will enjoy as we eat it, perhaps alongside a bowl of homemade soup and freshly harvested salad makings, or mingling with other scents and sounds that signify a family holiday tradition. In the sharing of bread, we recall examples of hospitality and welcome. In many cultures and religious traditions, breaking bread together is a sign of reconciliation, of sustenance and shared life in the midst of brokenness. Sharing bread made from local ingredients can be an invitation into the heart of a place and a celebration of the bounty of the land.
What does “breaking bread” mean to you? Perhaps you think of a simple shared meal, a religious or cultural tradition, or the complexity of our food system. You might write of the network of people, places, and technology that brought your food to you: the microbiota and chemical components that physically make up food, the farmers and other laborers who nurtured plants and animals to market, the machinery involved in planting, harvesting, transporting, packaging, and bringing each item to a store nearby, and the almost unfathomably intricate network of places around the globe necessary to create those machines and vehicles, packing products, and raw ingredients. You might tell a story of the people in one or more of those stages and places, of the cultural setting where the food was produced, or of the chemistry, biology, natural history, and other stories of the land that produces food for us. Do human actions in the food production supply chain move the land toward fullness of life, or toward degradation?
We welcome your submissions addressing any portion of this theme as it connects to environmental practice: breaking bread as ritual, hospitality, and welcome, gratitude for the interconnected global web of relationships that brings bread to our tables, bread as a symbol of the food system, or bread as an entry point into discussions about the components of the food we eat and its nutrition for our bodies and the Earth. You might tell stories about wheat allergies, genetically modified foods, treatment of farm and factory workers, the impact of monocrops on the land and its inhabitants, or the distance between people and the origins of their food. Maybe you are a forager. Perhaps you question bread as a staple food, with its required acreage of agricultural space, and you can speak from the perspective of a practitioner in agro-ecology, holistic land management, or conservation biology. You might connect food production and transport to issues of climate change. Have you experienced times when breaking bread is an act of healing? What steps are you taking to break bread for the purpose of unity, conscious of life’s fragile networks and nearly-miraculous ability to sustain?
The basic ingredients of bread are not particularly tasty on their own: flour, salt, yeast — and yet, given the right combination of motion, time, and heat, they will transform into a product appealing to the senses. What raw ingredients — experiences, knowledge, insights — are waiting inside you? If you knead for a little while, mull on the words and images, wait for some yeast-like catalyst to produce its alchemy, what will come forth?
The call for submissions for Breaking Bread concluded April 15, 2016.