There’s something about the notion of ‘home’ or ‘feeling at home’ – if the two aren’t the same idea -that offers connotations of warmth. Saying ‘home is where the heart is’, is an awful way to start any piece of writing or linguistic exchange, but it is necessary in my explanation. Home is where the heart is: the heart of the home is the hearth. The hearth is the physical producer of heat, creating a sense of warmth, thus warmth becomes synonymous with the perceived ‘ideal home’.
People also talk about the idea of warmth as a metaphysical idea relating to ‘home’, where ‘home’ doesn’t necessarily denote a specific geographical place, but rather a place of superlative familiarity. This warmth isn’t necessarily created in the physical touch, or in the space between oneself and an object, or even another person, but can be expressed and/or received by the eyes, the mouth and the ears in exchanges between friends and family.
It’s a Saturday (Sunday?) afternoon, and as I thumb the warm bread held in my left hand, swirling it gently in a repeated large, round figure of eight over the inviting surface of steaming soup, I am forced to create and dwell over these ideas. My right hand presses support against my right cheek, providing physical stability to the place of thought.
Warm bread feels like home, to me.
*The flock of newly bought chickens pass the window I stare out of.
Bread has been at the centre of communities, and so the home, for thousands of years. It is believed the first purveyors of such a staple were the Egyptians, pioneering this culinary invention since before 6000BC. I think of all the cultures around the world today and their breadish rituals: the Greeks dipping theirs in honey and oil; the Italians topping it with tomatoes and cheese; the French and their baguettes; the Indians with the Chapati and Naan, and so on.
Now, I hold my thumbed golden slice with both hands; my eyes examine with curiosity and realisation in equal measure.
Bread is everything.
Jesus made the proclamation “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh”.
Lana Del Rey in her song Pawn Shop Blues, tells of how she doesn’t mind “living off bread and oranges, no, no” in her struggle to stay financially afloat after pawning a pair of gold metal earrings. Both greats underline the notion that bread is all one needs – nutritious, unfussy, and accessible.
Still alone with my thoughts and bread, with no one to distract me with meaningless conversation – this is important – I inspect further, the physicality of this phenomenon of infinitely versatile characteristics. Sourdough is the subject here – my bread of choice.
It’s soft interior is circumscribed by a bulging, cratered – almost mountainous – bronzed landscape of only a few millimetres deep, softened in look by powdered regions of flour. Oh, what treasure do you protect?
The soft, sweet and ruptured surfaces within, seduce with their aromas. The pockets and fibrous nature hold warmth and soak that which we spread, dip or atop. The bread’s interior is precious like this, it is sacred, and so is only natural to be encrusted in its protective shell. In this way, it means more than its physicality…
To ‘break bread’ with someone, is to celebrate through food, to share intimacies with someone, to express a closeness with someone. Breaking bread – to tear through the external crust, is to expose the sacred interior to be shared and enjoyed with others. As such, it is a metaphor also, for opening your home to others. Thus, the bond between home and bread is unbreakable.
A friend of mine recently sold his house after six months of it being on the market. On the morning of the day that the then-potential-buyer came to view the property, he had baked his own bread in his kitchen. An offer was placed that afternoon.
To be the bread winner, is to be the household’s earner. Dough is money.
Bread is everything.
Bread is home.
I am not the only one that feels this newfound deep affinity, still affixed over my soup. Liz Barrell uses a tiger bread baguette to explore the idea of “stitching the bread” back together as a possible symbol of community in these uncertain times; the unifying of breads; the unifying of people – what an incredible proposition.
Words: Sean Hendley, Storehouse Content Team
Illustrations: Liz Barrell, Interior Design, @liz_barrell