On a whim the night before a transatlantic flight I downloaded the series “Cooked” on the Netflix App on my iPad so that I would have something to watch on the plane. It’s a short series, only four episodes about the four elements of cooking, but one really got my attention-- Air. The episode about air is really all about bread and the process of making bread and how we are all being cheated out of real bread due to industrial processing. A year ago I wouldn’t have thought any more about it, but after spending five months in southern Switzerland, I’d already been convinced that America has never actually tasted bread. Don’t believe me? One of my Italian friends here was frustrated with not being able to find a croissant on a Sunday morning due to all the bakeries being closed and I heard him say, “What on earth do all the moms do? Do they get their bread for Sunday morning on Saturday night? What kind of mom gives their child day-old bread?” I DIED LAUGHING! Unless you live in a city, it’s extremely rare the bread you are eating in the U.S. was made that day, or even the day before. Long story short, I decided to make my own bread once I got home since I was no longer able to stomach the bread found in our grocery stores There were many failures before any successes, but when that first good loaf came out of the oven, I was hooked!
So, what does this have to do with God? Would you believe me if I told you that I understood the Bible more and who Jesus was after watching a Netflix documentary? Well, it’s true. We can read in John 6:35 that Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.” This is first of the seven “I AM” statements Jesus makes in the book of John. Since Jesus only makes seven of these highly metaphorical statements, it’s important to study what He actually meant by them through studying the thing Jesus is linking Himself with. (For reference, the seven are the bread of life, the light of the world, the door of the sheep, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the way, the truth and the life, and finally the true vine.) I’d love to say that I realized immediately what God was trying to teach me and that I had remembered that Jesus calls Himself the bread of life as I was watching a documentary on bread, but it wasn’t until after I made and was enjoying the taste of my first successful loaf that I realized that I was munching on the Savior of the world. Suddenly I started to realize all those interesting little facts I heard in the documentary had a much deeper meaning and I had to share!
In the documentary, Michael Pollan says, “If I gave you a bag of flour and water, you had nothing else to live on, you could live for a while, but eventually you would die. But if you take that same bag of flour and water and bake it into bread, you could live on indefinitely.” I don’t know if it’s that I just hadn’t spent that much time in the kitchen or the fact that FACS classes were taken out of public education, but I had no idea, until watching this documentary, that bread could be made from just flour and water. I truly thought you needed milk, eggs, yeast, butter, flour, maybe some sugar (and that is what is in much of the bread you would find on the grocery aisle in a sealed plastic bag). Simply combining flour, water, and air allows bread to be made and would entirely sustain us. Can you believe that? We could literally survive ONLY on bread and water. Isn’t that amazing? Jesus was not only saying that He’s good food to have, but that He alone is all that we need to be sustained.
“In a kernel of grain there’s everything to support a whole life, carbohydrates, minerals, proteins.” – Richard Bourdon
Once those kernels of grain are ground into flour, it is mixed with water and then fermented. During this fermentation, bacteria from the air enter the bread and allow for the rise that makes the bread we know and enjoy (yes, some people add commercial yeast to their bread, but it’s not needed, it just speeds up the process). In the documentary, Richard Bourdon says of the yeast needed to make bread, “they’re everywhere, from the air, they’re just always there, omnipotent, omnipresent.” Sounds an awful lot like Jesus.
Lastly, bread is a “cooperative venture.” Bread was not possible when humans were living as hunter gatherers, it was made possible as we began to form communities and assume roles, understanding that we could achieve more as we work and live together—someone is needed to grow the grain, mill the grain, shape the dough and bake the bread. Christianity is no different, we thrive inside the existence of community. Jesus talks about it, Paul talks about it, and we can tell the difference in our faith when we’ve been in community and when we haven’t. These communities allowed for the creation of bread which in turn sustained the people in the community. Church community is no different, when we decide to join a church community we get to partake in the sustenance that Jesus is. Jesus is already there and has been sustaining people since His birth.
I could go on forever about bread and how interesting it’s evolution has been, but I’ll let you watch it on Cooked by Netflix!
If you’re interested in my bread or pizza dough recipe you can find them in the book Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza (or send me a message!)! I also used the 9 inch Banneton Proofing Basket for proofing from Bread Bosses! I hope you decide to try making fresh bread of your own, it won't disappoint!