I am made of bread.

Not literally, of course—unless you count my love of a good sandwich against me.

For the past year, I’ve dabbled with making sourdough bread. I’ve had very limited success until this month. My mom and I both love cooking and baking and have partnered up in this pursuit over the course of the year, fostering a new obsession.

We’ve had endless conversations about starter, bake schedules and flour—but the specifics of our bread making exploits are best suited for another post.

While baking my first successful sourdough loaf, I was reflecting on bread and its place in my life.

The successful sourdough loaf!

Some of my earliest sense memories are in a kitchen—and of bread. I can hear the distinct sound of dough being kneaded in the plastic bowl of a countertop mixer, a strange thwapping of dough synchronized with the groaning of an electric motor. The smell of dough, yeasty and rich, being baked and then cooled on the counter; that was the smell of my childhood.

This isn’t the reflection of a digital professional seeking analog creative outlets in the kitchen or the workshop (although admittedly I do both). This is a realization of why bread, and the process of making bread, define who I am today.

My sister and I are both creative souls. My mom has a constant refrain that she’s “not creative” and that she doesn’t understand how she fostered our creative traits. However, as I think about her tireless pursuit of bread baking through my entire life, it becomes clear.

There’s been much written about the intersection of obsession and creativity. In the areas where I feel most creative I know that it is often fueled by obsession. And to me it’s clear—my mom is obsessed with bread.

When I was young she got involved in a small business designed to educate public school students about bread making. She would literally box up flour, yeast, water, honey, salt, mixing bowls, stir sticks, and metal baking tins, load the minivan and head out and teach a hundred kids in a cafeteria how to mix and knead dough—and send them all home with a loaf to bake at the end of the day.

This business meant that sometimes family time was spent refilling the flour mill as it ran in the garage, converting a five gallon bucket of wheat berries into flour one scoop at a time. Other times it was spent clipping apart 3-packs of Fleischmann’s yeast and sorting them into bread making kits.

Through this bread focused business, through raising two kids, through all other things that mom, dad, and my sister and I did, the smell of fresh bread was an ever-present refrain.

Wheat bread. “Healthy” whole grain bread. Soft, fluffy oatmeal bread. Dinner rolls. Sticky buns. The occasional pizza dough or breadstick. We were never lacking for the fresh crusty stuff at home.

My mom’s obsession with bread, and its expression of love and service to our family, friends and community, have shaped me in important ways.

Being creative is a tiring, sometimes thankless job. Other times it’s delicious, fulfilling and beautiful. Creativity can be finicky, the ingredients may not always come together into something viable. Sometimes, it’s more of a dark art (sourdough) rather than a refined science (yeast). But in the end, it’s something that is deeply fulfilling to those that understand.

So yes, I am made of bread. And I learned it all from my mom.

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