The other day, we had a friend over for dinner. This is someone who shares my (new) taste in food and I love it when she comes over for dinner since it means I get eat the food I’ve made with someone else. My wife can’t usually eat what I do for a number of reasons, not just because she may not like it. The one thing I need to be concerned about with our friend visiting is that she’s got a gluten sensitivity and that means avoiding using wheat flour in anything. While I was at the store, I was going to grab some quinoa for dinner. The store was selling the quinoa for $11. I couldn’t believe the price they were charging for it so I put it back on the shelf and decided to save myself 8 dollars by buying it in bulk from the health food store down the street.
However, my trip down the health food aisle was not a total waste as sitting there, near the quinoa, was a mix for a gluten-free bread. I’ve never been a big fan of gluten-free breads but this was from a brand that I knew produced high quality items so I had a bit of trust in it. I brought it home and proceeded to make it. The first, and biggest problem, I had with this stuff was that the dough was incredibly sticky. Since gluten is what gives bread it’s “oomph”, going without it means that you need to come up with some other way to hold the bread together while it bakes. This stuff was almost like glue. It stuck to my spatula, my board, my hands and anything else it came into contact with. The recipe on the bag suggested using a loaf pan but I don’t actually own a loaf pan as I prefer to shape my breads by hand. That was the first time I’ve ever found myself wishing for a loaf pan. I managed to get the dough into a decent shape, covered it with foil and stuck it in the proofer for 45 minutes for the yeast to do its thing. I couldn’t believe how well it had risen after that time in the proofer. That’s when I first felt good about this particular recipe.
I switched the oven from proofer mode to bake mode and popped the dough back in to sit for a good long time. Shortly after this, the whole kitchen started to smell like fresh bread. Even gluten-free, the stuff smells amazing in the oven. I think we’re biologically geared toward loving this smell. I couldn’t wait to rip into this loaf!
That evening, our friend came over and she smelled the fresh bread as soon as she walked in the door. She entered the kitchen and saw the loaf sitting on a cooling rack and mentioned how wonderful it smelled. My wife gave her the good news that it was a gluten free loaf that I had made special for her. I wasn’t there to see this but my wife told me she was extremely touched by this simple gesture. She hadn’t had bread of any kind in a very long time and was overjoyed at the prospect of having fresh from the oven bread with our dinner.
Once it was time to eat, we started by cutting open the bread and putting some fresh, softened butter on it. This was the best gluten-free bread I’ve ever had. I’ve had three or four other types but this was the first one I had ever enjoyed eating and the first time I ever went back for seconds on it. We proceeded to have a wonderful evening eating dinner (curried quinoa and lentil stuffed peppers), sitting around the table and enjoying spending time together. Throughout the night, the bread was there on the table and every once in a while, we would reach down, cut off a piece and eat it while we talked. It reminded me of why for so many centuries, eating with another person was referred to as “breaking bread” with them.
The next day, we got an email from our friend thanking us once again for the great night the good company and the wonderful food. She expressed her gratitude once again for the bread and told us how touched she was that we had it for her. As we talked about this, my wife felt so happy that we were able to do this for her friend that she began to cry (not much, but it was crying nonetheless). Who would have thought that as I stood in the store contemplating buying one item that something else I bought almost on impulse would be the highlight of the evening? That’s the power of a simple loaf of bread. Cooking for someone else is always an act of service and is rewarding for those preparing and those consuming it. To give someone something special to eat is to show them how you care for them and that they are important to you. This is why some flour, milk eggs and yeast can turn into tears when they have been properly mixed and cooked and consumed.
If you have someone special that you care for, take some time to think about what they enjoy to eat and then try to make them something special for them by preparing it in a way that they will enjoy. It’s a great way to let someone know how you feel about them. Food, even a loaf of bread, has the power to transform a visit with a friend into a memorable experience that will stay with you for years.
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