Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Bread in the Mourning

Yesterday, at a friend's house, I glanced idly through one of her Persian cookbooks. The pictures were tantalizing and I quickly worked my way to the dessert section. The number of the recipes with associations to grieving traditions surprised and intrigued me. Some dishes were to be made repeatedly, (on the 4th, 7th, and 40th days after the death of a loved one, for example) and many were to be shared with the grieving family and also with the poor.

Since Grandma died, over 2 weeks ago, I have worked out some of my grief in the kitchen. The first week, I baked potato bread and pugliese for our family. (I figured, if the army goes out of their way to bring fresh bread to the front lines for its morale-boosting benefits, it was probably a good idea for us as well.) Since then, I have made (and shared) whole wheat sandwich bread, ginger scones, plain scones, oatmeal molasses bread, a cinnamon coffeecake and several batches of cookies (including the one we ate for dinner last night. OK...yes...and breakfast this morning). I don't know if this amount of baking is unusual for me; I don't keep a baking diary. But it has taken on new meaning as I consider its place in my grieving process.

A year ago Christmas, I gave Grandma and Grandpa 12 months of bread. I wanted to visit them more often and bake more regularly and this gave me the impetus to do both. It was a good plan with satisfying results all around as we usually stayed long enough to share good bread and great stories. So this year would have been our second year of bread-induced visiting and I was really looking forward to it. I will still take bread to Grandpa, of course, and in many ways, the time with him is even more precious now, but it may be more a grieving tradition than a Christmas gift. We will break bread together and mark the passing of time since her death and honor the courage it has taken for Grandpa to make it through another month without his wife of (almost) 65 years.

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