Some weeks ago I purchased pretzel bread at Aldi’s. I had never seen it for sale—-and I have never seen it since—not at Aldi’s, not at Publix, not at Food City. So I googled pretzel bread recipes and decided I would make some myself. There is something so satisfying about mixing the ingredients, kneading the dough, seeing it rise, smelling the incomparable aroma of baking bread.
I spent a lovely afternoon baking. Yet I also had a sense of melancholy. In the (not too distant) past, that is, pre-Covid 19, baking often meant “company coming!” I so miss the camaraderie of sharing food with friends. We occasionally do social distance picnic with friends, each bringing their own food. That has helped us not to feel totally isolated. I am not sure what we will do when the weather no longer permits even that bit of interaction, comfort, pleasure. It is not the same experience, though, as sharing a meal, lovingly prepared, consumed together in leisurely fashion.
That kind of meal resonates as the ideal to me. But there are other opportunities to share food that are meaningful if we pay attention. Four gang members once came to our church’s food pantry and were served without fanfare. No one was excluded. Everyone was welcome. I have observed a homeless man divide his meager rations with his faithful companion, dog and owner clearly devoted to one another.
One of the most powerful stories I have ever heard of sharing food, though, occurred in World War II. An infantryman in the British army had ended up in a prisoner of war camp in Poland. The conditions were dreadful. There was no heat, and prisoners were given a single bowl of thin soup and a small crust of bread daily. Men were starving, sick, filthy and desperate. Suicide was a very real option. All one had to do was run toward the perimeter of the camp and leap against the barbed wire fence. Guards would immediately shoot and kill anyone trying to escape.
In the middle of the night the soldier walked to the perimeter and sat down beside the fence to think about going through with it. He heard movement in the darkness from the from the other side of the fence. It was a Polish farmer. The farmer thrust his hand through the barbed wire and handed the soldier half of a potato. In a heavily accented English the farmer, in his effort to offer nourishment as well as to encourage faith in desperate circumstances, said “The Body of Christ.” (as reported in October 2, 2013 Christian Century)
May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.
Hope’s Café Bonus: for Making bread, Baking bread, Breaking bread together, try Pizza Monkey Bread. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine 2 cans (16.3 oz each) refrigerated biscuits, quartered; 6 oz pepperoni, quartered; 2 c. shredded mozzarella; ½ c. Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated; ¼ c. butter, melted and slightly cooled; 2 T. olive oil; 2 t. Italian seasonings; 2 t. minced garlic (or ½ t. garlic powder). Mix well to coat. Pour into a greased bundt pan or 9×13 baking dish. Bake 35-45 minutes, covering with foil after the first 20 minutes. Then check every 5 minutes thereafter for doneness. After removing from oven, loosen with knife. Invert bundt man onto plate. Warm some marinara for dipping & enjoy. 😊