Split

eye of the bread

In a poorly lit temple museum in Japan, there’s a thousand-year-old sculpture in unpainted wood of a monk caught at the moment of enlightenment, his face splitting open like a cicada’s shell to reveal the monk beneath. This reminded me of that. In the first ten minutes after it goes into the oven, the dough experiences a burst of expansion before the heat kills it — or, if you like, transforms it into its next, immobile state. Many bakers, disliking irregularity, cut slashes into the dough so it will split where they want, and sometimes I do this too, but most of the time I prefer to be surprised by what opens and what stays closed.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

19 Comments


  1. a powerful comparison with the split bread and the monk’s face. and i like the alternate you provide to the heat killing: “transforms it into its next, immobile state.”

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    1. Thanks; I’m glad that worked. Needless to say, I would’ve preferred to write a poem, but I was too wiped out.

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    1. In fact it did turn out really well, if I do say so myself. Almost every batch of bread I make now is rye, because I love how it tastes when it’s fresh out of the oven.

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  2. Yes, warm rye bread is one of the lost pleasures!

    I don’t think this piece is any the worse for not being in lines. It’s a perfect piece, not a word out of place. (And the image is great!)

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    1. Wow, thanks. But you know my lust for poems is not exactly rational. It did occur to me last night that readers might enjoy some prose for a change.

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  3. Please can I have the scratch-and-sniff now? (Of the bread, not the monk!)

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    1. If/when you and J. come to visit, I promise to bake a fresh batch.

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  4. dave,
    I picked up a new bread book $7.at ollie’s/altoona which features more rye than most. The focus is levain-raised breads (frenchy for sourdough). I’ll share it with you sometime if i ever see you again.

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    1. You drove to Altoona and didn’t stop by to see me? Whose fault is that?

      I love sourdough but I’m not sure I want to stretch out the bread-making process that much. It’s tempting, though.

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  5. Feels to me like a prose poem but I’m never quite certain of the dividing lines. It got me thinking, and I like that.

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    1. That’s cool. Doesn’t matter to me how a given piece of writing is categorized, actually.

      Thanks for commenting. It’s nice to know you’re still stopping around.

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  6. Interesting – I had just found a recipe book on sourdough baking last night in my collection (don’t remember buying it or ever seeing it before) about a young man and a friend who spent a year in the back-country of Canada. It’s about rustic baking – lotsa recipes – some rye. Surprise. Or maybe our instincts know before we do that this will be a rough winter and we’d better get our sourdough going soon?
    hugs from PA (south of ya)
    connie

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    1. Well, I eat bread all year long, but there’s nothing like fresh warm bread with cabbage-potato soup on a winter day, you’re right about that.

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  7. full-circle comparison, nicely illustrated by the bread.
    i’m for surprise, too, as long as I don’t own a bakery.

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  8. I love this celebration of the qarrtsiluni moment. Such a rich metaphor.

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    1. “The qarrtsiluni moment” — yes, of course! Can’t beleive I didn’t make that connection. Thanks.

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