In mid-December 2018, I received a large Christmas package in the mail. It was meticulously packaged and wrapped up, making me all the more excited and full of childish glee to find out what this gift was.
Inside was a beautifully handmade ceramic bread bowl with two homemade bread recipes tucked into the bowl. This beautiful bowl came from my friend Ladybug who recently passed away less than a month from me receiving her gift. This was her last tangible gift to me.
One of the enclosed bread recipes was called “Cheesy Beer Bread.” Obviously, the recipe required a bottle of beer. I had never drunk a whole bottle of beer in my life thus far, nor do I have any interest. I had only taken a couple sips from guy buddies and colleagues who raved about the tangy beer that tantalized their taste buds. I actually turned to my parents for a bottle of beer to try to make this recipe. We all realize how funny this sounds, right? Asking parents for a bottle of beer? My father proudly gave me a bottle of beer called something IPA. It was later on that I found out that this beer was rather on the high end side my Cheesy Beer Bread came out extremely strong and tasted much more of beer than cheese.
On a cold night that was all too perfect for hot piping beer bread, I whipped out the recipe, sprayed down my new ceramic bread bowl, and proceeded to make and bake my bread. I popped open the beer bottle and heard the fizz and bubbles gurgle. When I poured all the beer in, everything in the bowl foamed up. I thought it was going to spill over. It didn’t. It stayed put, but I could see chemical reactions and all the raw ingredients were marrying and marinating into one another to make something absolutely delicious. The scent of the beer with chili and cheese was pungent and intoxicating. I poured the batter in the bread bowl. I popped it in the oven. I waited to see how my creation would come out.
As I waited for my cheesy beer bread, I was flooded with memories of Ladybug and us baking bread with her for the first time. She loved bread. She especially had a love affair with sourdough bread. To her, there was something amazing and magical about the starter active sourdough culture being fed and cared for that would result in a crispy and crunchy crust and soured pillowy soft bread. She loved her sourdough bread with room temperature unsalted butter and fresh fruit jam. She smiled, closed her eyes, and proclaimed: “There is nothing better!”
To me, what I find so therapeutic and remarkable about bread and just really cooking and baking anything is the chemical reaction of all these differing ingredients intermingling and mixing together, processing, and progressing together under heat to result in a final product that came from my own hard work and hands. This is very much like all of us. It is when we are under a certain amount of stress and heat that process and progress, our character to possibly create, and our fuel and fire to fight back to do something positive can result. With this bread bowl, I could see the seemingly simple ingredients rise up into bread. It is only under heat and fire as the fuel to light up all these ingredients that a final product comes about. I could bake. I could use my hands and not feel helpless. I could do something. I could create.
Approximately an hour later, my Cheesy Beer Bread came out. As with anything you bake and cook, you wait again and see. You wait for the flavors to integrate after the extreme heat. You wait for just the right time to cut into and taste. The right time for everything and everyone. You know it. You feel it. When the time is right, the time is right.
We can and will rise up when we are in the process or progress of transformation and placed under heat, just like bread. When have you undergone a ‘chemical reaction’ that involved process and progress and then to create and do something? What has been your fire to fight back and get up again? Do you have fire in your belly as fuel to create from your hands to not feel helpless?
Thanks for the gift, Ladybug. I get it. There is fire in my belly. There is fuel in my soul. It is time for me to create. It is time to bake some bread.
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,