Monday, March 14, 2011

Mama's Manna

Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.”
Exodus 12:20

In may of last year, I received test results that changed the inhabitants of my kitchen forever. After years of tummy issues, skin issues, joint pain, etc., I discovered that my body wasn't my enemy, the contents of my pantry and refrigerator shelves were. I had over fifty food allergies and didn't even know it! Gluten was a bummer, but expected. Dairy was validation. But soy, all nuts except almonds, beans, grains, cranberries ... it was all a lot to take in. Seeing that I still had a lot of food left that I could eat, I only found one biggie that was hard to get around. Baker's and brewer's yeast were extremely high. How on earth was I going to make bread?

It took a few weeks before I could shop alone (I needed someone to help me check labels!), but eventually I grew confident in branching out. I had given up on even trying to avoid yeast; deciding it was just too hard. My body, however, had other plans. Eventually, I listened to my insides (instead of my taste buds) and swore off yeast. I had tried store bought Amy-friendly bread (there is but one), it smelled and tasted like FEET. It foamed in your mouth while chewing. Good crimeny, it was awful! I had heard a tale in the "bloggesphere" of a delicious gluten, dairy, soy, pea and corn-free artisan loaf available in Seattle for only NINE DOLLARS. I am the daughter of Mary Harms. I don't pay nine dollars for a pound of shrimp, much less ONE loaf of bread! Thus began my quest to make an edible, enjoyable loaf of "Amy-friendly" bread.

As my family, friends and well-fed dogs and chickens will tell you, I now know why a good loaf of allergen-free bread is nine dollars! I've created my share of duds! The little men in my life try (in their own unique ways) to encourage me. Little Alan says, "Mommy, you're a genius! You just invented the first gluten-free eraser!" or, "It's not delicious bread, mom, but I'm sure it will make the perfect gluten-free brick!"

Wyatt, on the other hand, will say, "Mommy, this bread makes you cry. Don't make it anymore! Make pancakes, mommy! You can make those!" or "Mommy, I want you to drive to Seattle right NOW."

My poor husband does his best to comfort me as I sob while holding a rectangular, steaming object that smells like brown rice and could potentially put a hole through the floor if dropped. Looking into my puffy, mournful eyes, he begs me to "just make teff bread."

In the ten months that have passed since my test results arrived, I have successfully created mountains of muffins, a plethora of pancakes and bunches of biscuits. I am far from carb-deprived, but I have only found two bread recipes that work well. I had never worked with teff, buckwheat, amaranth or blanched almond flour before my gluten-free life, but now I can't make bread without them! While they won't pass for a slice of wonder bread, they are soft, comforting and nourishing. When a fresh loaf of "Mommy bread" comes out of the oven, even the gluten-eaters want some! :) I'm usually satisfied with these breads, but once in a while, I want something light (both in color and texture), fluffy and reminiscent of loaves gone by. Last night, I tried two new recipes: they resulted in an eraser and a brick. :/

I have my health back. My children can hug me without it hurting every joint in my body. I don't get migraines. My tummy loves me again. My face doesn't look like I exfoliated with a cheese grater. Why then, do I long for a silly loaf of white bread? It's that darn humanity peeking through again. I know better. After all, Jesus taught us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," not "give us an artisan loaf that makes perfect french toast and can be made for under three dollars."

I know I'm not the first child of His whining about bread; He heard similar whining from the Children of Israel. He rained down flakes of cereal-esqe goodness FROM THE SKY and still the people grumbled. When Jesus was tempted in the desert, one of the objects of temptation used by Satan was bread. Why do we all care so much about bread?

I believe that bread signifies security to us. Every civilization in the world has a form of bread. If you can make bread, it usually means you have a warm fire to cook it in and a home to eat it in. You have food to prepare it with. You have a community to share it with.

When we must depend on God to lead us to the point where we don't know from whence our bread will come, we get nervous. The Israelites had been following a cloud by day and fire by night. They didn't know where the next day would lead them. Even though God had brought them out of slavery and fed them wherever they went, they wanted to be home. When Jesus was alone in the desert, he had fasted for forty days. He was understandably hungry! He knew that His Father would look after all his needs, but I'm certain that He longed for bread. Not just to satisfy His stomach, but I'm certain forty days in solitude got pretty lonely!

What's my "beef" with my bread? It doesn't look like the bread I remember. It's small. It's brownish-purple. I can't buy it at a store or order it at a restaurant. As silly as it sounds, I want to assimilate with my light and fluffy bread-eating peers. My bread may be new, but assimilating has never seemed to be in the plans for me. I'm not a "Ruth," I'm more of a "John The Baptist!" God promised to feed and nurture me, not homogenize me. He has continued to surround me with a loving, supportive community of family and friends; all of whom seem to accept this uniqueness-- which goes far beyond my bread!

As I look at the grains in my pantry; so many of them "comfort grains" to God's precious children in Africa, I know I don't have to look beyond my God for security. May each slice remind me!

In Lenten Love and Friendship,

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