I expected to write up a blog post last Friday, just like I have every Friday before for nearly a year. Except that I couldn’t. News of a school shooting made the rum cake I wanted to feature seem unimportant. And I still struggle–along with countless others, I know–with finding significance in anything other than family and children and those we hold dear. I always professed this blog–foodforfun–to be only about fun food and drink. But today I have to step out a bit further and connect food to feelings that are decidedly not fun.
When I dropped my girls off at school this morning, I found myself lingering. Maybe I was picking up on something that wasn’t, but there seemed a sense of urgency in the halls. Smiles were everywhere, but I imagine teachers and parents had their own private thoughts–ones that could not and would not be communicated to the kids heading into their classrooms for the day.
I’ve always thought teachers to be underpaid and (mostly) under-appreciated. This is the workforce that educates our future. They’re not in it for the money; most teachers teach because they believe in what they do. And now this.
My feelings are shared by many and it may be that now we’ll do more to show our appreciation. I was wowed by the mother of one of my daughter’s classmates: She, her husband, and both of her children arrived at school this morning carrying a large pot of coffee and an oversized cookie tray. The gifts of food and drink were their way of showing teachers they were appreciated.
Wanting to show my gratitude, I had conversations with a few of my daughters’ teachers, thanking them for doing what they do. But I wanted to do more. I went home to bake bread. Today’s loaves count nine and I’ll deliver them tomorrow to teachers at my daughters’ school. While baking this bread is meant as a gift of thankfulness, it helped me in ways I hadn’t expected. Stirring together a triple batch of dough, then wrestling it into submission, helped me work out some of the aggression and sadness that I feel.
I’d love to find a metaphor for this bread and the peace we’d like to see in our communities and in the world. But instead I’ll settle for knowing that these loaves are nourishment and teachers everywhere need to be nourished now more than ever. I ask you to let a teacher know he or she is making a positive difference. Buy a cup of coffee, offer a smile and a kind word, say thanks. And if you’re a bread baker, give this (peaceful) loaf a whirl.
Whole Wheat and Oatmeal Bread
Adapted from Brother Rick Curry, S.J.’s, The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking
- 3 cups whole wheat flour
- 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 5 1/3 tablespoons (1/3 cup) butter
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
- 2 large eggs
- 4 to 5 cups bread flour
In large bowl, combine whole wheat flour, yeast, and salt.
In saucepan, heat butter, milk, water, molasses, and honey until warm and butter is partially melted. Pour into whole wheat mixture; stir well. Stir in oats and eggs. Beat 10 minutes, gradually adding bread flour until dough begins to pull away from side of bowl.
Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead 8 to 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic, adding flour as needed to prevent stickiness.
Place dough in lightly oiled large bowl; turn to coat on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm, draft-free place 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk.
Heat oven to 375°F. Grease 3 (9×5-inch) loaf pans. Punch dough down. Divide into thirds; shape into loaves. Place in pans. Cover with tea towel; let rise 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool.