Sunday, September 26, 2010


"Be gentle when you touch bread." Sister Schubert

Gathered around the kitchen island of my aunt Mary Lou on a picturesque fall ballgame weekend, and perusing the tantalizing cookbook by Sister Schubert (yes, she is real), my eyes fell on the inscription in the author's handwriting. Sister offers her actual recipes for rolls without which few southern holidays would be complete, including step by step photos intended to make this operation a tasty success with rank amateurs. I have yet to give it a whirl, but that will be for another day. I kept thinking back to the message inside the cover: "Be gentle when you touch bread", as it lingered in my mind.

The care and feeding of sourdough starter has been one of my favorite baking experiences. There is something primal... earthy... even soul-satisfying about handling smooth wooden bowls and olive wood spoons, and kneading, then shaping bread loaves. I stopped four years ago when the starter died and am convicted to grow some more. Hold me to it.

Getting the hang of kneading without punching out the necessary air pockets was an important step. My hands learned what to do in response to the touch of the dough as though some unknown vestigial organ remembered from generations of women who had baked their bread cakes on hot stones. I found it warmly therapeutic - a healing touch in a busy day.

My mother still says, "use a light touch" when baking. She - decades ago - showed us how to fold gently when combining ingredients - not to stir furiously. "That makes muffins or biscuits tough." And so I pass kitchen wisdom along to my daughters.

Here's the trifecta for wisdom from the kitchen today, another related admonition:
"A gentle word turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1

The power of gentle words to shape a heart and spirit cannot be overstated. Are not hearts of children and relationships with people of infinitely more value than a loaf of bread? A harsh tone of voice and the use of sarcasm and criticism are means of delivering mortal blows to a developing self in a child. Saying hurtful things but laughing while doing so sends mixed signals. Humor can be a selfish attempt by the speaker to weaken the sting of damaging words, yet hiding behind that 'just kidding' excuse is still a school yard bully of any age seeking to be let off the hook.

A gentle touch is the way of wisdom. I am committed to cast off old habits which might toughen our response to others. I long to have a tender heart that senses what kind of touch is needed and a willing, yielded spirit to help direct my words. O, Lord, make the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart acceptable in Your sight, for You are my Strength and my Redeemer. for Sister Schubert's new Addy award winning book.

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