27 August 2015
I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to you, nor did we (anyone) have enough time in between the conference to check in. I also didn’t have the time or courage, really, to say some things in front of everyone on your behalf.
Without hyperbole, I do believe that there wouldn’t be much grain in the gathering if it weren’t for you. You, especially and as far as I know with the exception of Jeff Ford, are the linchpin in this entire revolution. Everyone who mills, bakes, grows, or even enjoys the cologne of fresh whole grain bread owes you a debt. Depending on their church, it may be financial, spiritual, or karmic. Regardless of its form, the substance of gratitude can never be diminished. You were the Pope before there was a Vatican; you toil in sheer compulsion of sharing. Are you familiar with St Francis’ prayer? It reads at one point, “Let me not so much seek to be understood, as to understand…[because] it is in giving that we truly receive.” You kind of live the anti-dream of every chef and baker in magazines and cookbooks; you work consistently, constantly, and clairvoyantly. You bake for breads’ sake, not your own. You belong to the craft more than it belongs to you: and I think that that is the golden stitch.
If life is a big quilt of relationships, then food (bread especially) is the fabric. That quilt is incessantly under threat of threading: gluten hypochondria; digital technology; phonies and poseurs; corporate food groups, ad naseum. But with great lungs you blew oxygen into the dying coals and sparked a Renaissance. Your dogma is cement: fresh, stone-milled flour, whole and local grains, even a wood oven. Even with such humble architecture, all of us young turks still struggle within your geometry. You set standards so high, and you execute with such flawlessness, that we have come to realize a bittersweet lesson: the simpler the bread, the harder the work. It’s a dry pill for young people to swallow! But who thought traditions engendered 8000 years ago in Mesopotamia would be broken in the modern world and resurrected in Chico? Who knew it’d be the imposed yoke of any self-respecting baker to assume the bar you tacitly leveled? Did you?
Bread is the story through which we choose to talk about our lives. Food is a language we all understand: we all must find the narrative which makes sense of our lives (Nick Flynn). I think that you’re the one who created the vowels for us. Your sincerity, your grace, humility, and inclusiveness are not just an inspiration; they are rules for anyone who truly, truly desires to understand perfect bread. Good bread is made by great people. Energy is created and then stewarded through its leavening and transferences: we are all so fixated by what comes out, but we should focus on what, and who, goes in. It’s an emotional equation. Technique is the algebra.
So, on behalf of everyone, I want to thank you. There aren’t more words beyond that; think of the incredible deeds you’ve engendered! You kept the textbook alive, and translated it for modern tongues. But, on a closer look, with an exegesis that we weren’t taught in school, there wasn’t much translation to be done. It’s always been there, after all; you just weren’t afraid of the dust.
Hope to see you soon. Sincerely,