Last year I contributed to a book edited by Tim Carson with the title of Neither Here Nor There: The Many Voices of Liminality. The book draws together the expertise, experience, and insights of a coterie of authors, all of whom relate the core concepts of liminality to their unique experiences. Unfortunately, this book is still not available in Australia.
I love bread. There is something about the smell and taste of freshly baked bread that turns me into a three year old doing a happy dance. In my German tradition we shared Abendbrot (literally translated ‘evening bread’). The very word ushers in memories of sharing the last meal of the day with my parents, seated around a small table in our old farmhouse in northern Germany. Bread was always the centrepiece of Abendbrot. Not just any bread, it had to be Schwarzbrot (‘Black bread’), made without yeast, full of grains and rye – tough, austere and delicious. Over the years, as we moved between countries and continents, there was always a rush to discover a shop that would sell somewhat of an equivalent to this cultural comfort food. This simple bread brought to our family a sense of identity, reminding us of who we are, and tying us to our past and tradition.
There is something about bread that reaches beyond barriers of culture and language. Humans find connection in the making and breaking of bread. In our fast-paced, instant society, bread creates a sense of shalom, a sense of togetherness. There is nothing ‘hurried’ about well-made bread. Bread brings a sense of comfort. “All sororws are less with bread,” said Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. The smell of baking bread brings a sense of joy and innocence.
Bread speaks of welcome. “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou,” wrote Omar Khayyam, the great Persian philosopher and poet. Bread is symbolic. It features in many faith traditions including Judaism and Christianity. As a follower of Christ I am reminded that he said, “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will not hunger.” Bread is about sharing our stories and lives.
So on this day, dear reader, I share with you the blessing of bread and a very unconventional recipe. If you choose to take the 9 day journey of creating it, may you practice mindfulness. Remember amidst the many sorrows that we absorb every day in our world, there is also much good. And for a moment we celebrate that good and we are grateful.
My father’s idea of Sour Rye Bread: Dedicated to man who always bode welcome to the stranger and taught me the importance of ‘sharing bread’.
You will need 100% rye flour – I purchase mine online in bulk. The water I use comes from our rainwater tanks. The difference in using this pure water in the making of bread, kefir and kombucha is remarkable.
Day 1: Take 3 heaped tablespoons of the flour, place in a glass jar and add enough warm, pure water to create a thickened cream consistency. Place the lid loosely on the jar and keep in a warm spot.
Day 2: Check on the contents towards the end of the day. You should be able to see some small bubbles starting to form.
Day 3. Add another teaspoon of rye flour. Stir and smell the mixture. It should start to smell slightly sour. If it smells ‘rotten’, start again! Something has gone wrong in the souring process.
Day 4: Check on the contents … bubbles, smelling sour.
Day 5: Add another teaspoon of rye flour.
Day 6: Take 400gm of rye flour in a glass or steel bowl. Make a well in the middle and add your sour leaven, covering the top with some of the rye flour. Cover bowl with moist cloth and keep in a warm spot.
Day 7: Add enough warm water to create a very thick dough. Add your seeds/kibbles then cover with moist cloth and keep in a warm spot.
Day 8: Kneed the mixture, adding more rye or water, if necessary. Remember to keep the cloth over the bowl moist.
Day 9: Knead mixture and add 2-3 teaspoons of Celtic Sea Salt. Let it rise for a few hours. Prepare bread tin, put mixture in tin and allow to rise again. Bake in 180C oven for 35 minutes (top should be golden brown).
Perhaps most readers would associate the word ‘mugwump’ with Albus Dumbledore of the much loved Harry Potter series. Dumbledore was the Supreme Mugwump, head of the Wizengamot, the International Confederation of Wizards – except in the fifth book where his cohort suspects he is totally nuts (don’t worry, he is restored to his position by the end of the book).
The word ‘mugwump’ originates from the Algonquian dialect of Native American in Massachusetts and means ‘war leader’. It was first used as a humorous word in English, depicting a bigwig or grand panjandrum. During the US Presidential elections in 1884 it was used to describe Republicans who changed sides (God forbid); they became known as little mugwumps or turncoats. The most notorious of these was Mark Twain who famously said: “I was a mugwump. We, the mugwumps, a little company made up of the unenslaved of both parties, the very best men to be found in the two great parties – that was our idea of it … Our principles were high, and very definite. We were not a party; we had no candidates; we had no axes to grind. Our vote laid upon the man we cast it for no obligation of any kind. By our rule we could not ask for office; we could not accept office. When voting, it was our duty to vote for the best man, regardless of his party name. We had no other creed. Vote the best man – that was creed enough.”
– Mark Twain’s Autobiography (North American Review, Dec. 21, 1906)
Today, the word mugwump is most commonly used in reference to someone removed from party politics and somewhat of an independent thinker – which makes them rather dangerous on many levels, not the least in that some observers would say they are nuts…just like dear Dumbledore.
So welcome to the mugwump blog of the independent, slightly offbeat, thinkers 🙂 This blog will serve as a place where a mugwump with attitude will throw some stuff on the table; reflections on history, spirituality, political bollocks, human rights, things that grow in my garden, animals, the merit of red wine even when you have developed an allergy that could kill you, the wonder of myth and ‘thin places’, and how annoying some people can be.
Look forward to our discussions – as mugwumps we will attempt to not kill each other in that process, but practice the art of listening closely and engaging keyboard response with respect.