Friday, April 19, 2013

Holy Bread: Exploring Diverse Faith Traditions from a Culinary Perspective

Lynne Golodner took an interesting approach to exploring faith traditions in her newest book, The Flavors of Faith: Holy Breads. On April 14 at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Royal Oak, she gave a presentation to promote its recent publication by Read the Spirit Books.

I first mentioned Lynne Golodner in my blog entry about the June 2012 Michigan Professional Communicators with interest in religion and cross-cultural issues meeting. In addition to having published several books, she leads workshops and retreats on writing, parenting, and yoga, is the founder of Your People, LLC, a public relations, marketing consulting, and business development firm, and is a mother of four children.

Somewhere amidst all those responsibilities and accomplishments she managed to do the first-hand research and writing, and some baking experiments, required to compile this lovely book about the role bread plays in the gatherings and prayers of various religions.

The event lasted from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., starting with a presentation by Golodner regarding the history behind and content in Holy Breads, including what inspired her to write it. Golodner recounted how she became intrigued with bread as she was getting back in touch with her Jewish roots, and found that preparing food was an important part of her faith tradition.

Bread is mentioned in so many Jewish, Christian, and other prayers, she said, and it plays a very important role in community-building and hospitality.

The subject was even more fascinating to her because it required some reconciling of beliefs about this particular category of food—our society has all but demonized bread with fad diets and food trends, she said, but grains have always been a staple of the human diet, even able to sustain people for periods of time when no other food has been available to them.

The book discusses and gives recipes for some of the most popular among Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Native American breads. Golodner explained how she got several of the stories, and clarified why some breads people initially expected to see in her book are not featured. The book’s scope is breads with a religious context, she said, and she conducted extensive inquiries to determine that East Indian breads such as nan, for example, are cultural rather than tied to particular faith traditions.

Golodner also told some anecdotes from the book’s development phase, including about her visit to the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn where women bake bread every week to sell as the mosque’s primary source of revenue, and how she had to get details and recipes for the Native American breads in a sort of roundabout way.

The talk and was followed by a social reception in which attendees were able to sample several of the types of breads mentioned in the book, including soft pretzels (Christian), challah (Jewish), tortillas (Native American), cornbread (Native American), king's cake (Christian), and pita bread (Muslim). The breads were all provided by local bakeries and vendors with the exception of the king’s cake, which was ordered and shipped from a special bakery in New Orleans.

This presentation was yet another example of the wide variety of interfaith events going on in southeastern Michigan, and the first one I’ve attended which focused specifically on interfaith awareness in the home. Golodner emphasized that the recipes chosen for the book are “simple,” making it feasible for people to try making types of bread developed in other faith traditions, and learn something about those traditions in the process. Golodner had fun experimenting with bread-baking with her children, and encourages others to give it a try with their families.

Illustration by Karla Joy Huber, 2011; Prismacolor marker, Sharpie marker, and Sharpie pen

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