Read: How to Be a Breadhead
By Fr. Dominic Garramone, O.S.B. (Reedy Press, 2012)
Never trust anyone on a no-bread diet. Anyone who has given up such a culinary staple should be approached with caution. There’s a reason we refer to the Eucharist as the bread of life, after all. Bread sustains life, provides comfort, and serves as a centerpiece to gather around. “Baking invites and creates community,” writes Benedictine Father Dominic Garramone in his introductory text to breadbaking. “The very word ‘companion’ comes from the Latin cum pane: with bread.”
Profound as the insight is, it’s one of only a handful found in this book, which is disappointing considering the author is a Benedictine. With the past five years’ proliferation of food blogs, free instructional videos on YouTube, and the already extensive library of cookbooks devoted specifically to baking, I’d hoped for something more than mere kitchen instruction from Garramone and would have appreciated more of his thoughts on the spirituality of breadbaking.
What Garramone does offer is the encouraging voice of a friend who’s invited you into his kitchen. His patient and often humorous advice insists that when disaster strikes and you’ve baked a loaf that wouldn’t rise, “[You] tell people that your bread was so dense that it generated its own gravity field, or that you sent it to NASA to use in their studies of how black holes are formed.” Despite hosting his own PBS show and authoring several cookbooks, he claims he’s not an expert nor a professionally trained chef, instead earning his culinary education in his mother’s kitchen and the public library.
While Garramone’s recipes are basic and he uses techniques that more accomplished bakers will have already built upon, the morning I spent testing his pretzel recipe turned into an afternoon attempting (and failing) to avoid the basket of warm and chewy snacks I would have otherwise had to visit a mall to get.
This article appeared in the March 2013 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 78, No. 3, page 43).