COVID-19 created some strange shortages – toilet paper being the first and most memorable. But bread was another, quickly followed by flour as people launched into making their own loaves. Fortunately for me, I’m married to a chef, and as soon as he ran into empty store shelves, he started baking with the flour we already had in the pantry. Another side effect of COVID-19 seems to be nostalgia. Old senior pictures shared on Facebook in solidarity with the Class of 2020 whose senior year has been lost – no senior day, no prom, no commencement – but it has spread way beyond support for high school grads. My brothers both started texting me pictures from our childhood, and I’ve seen evidence of similar excursions down memory lane all over social media. Perhaps we’re all just going through boxes or perhaps there’s comfort in memories.
Whichever the case, Frank (aka “the chef dude”) was not immune. He went back to an old recipe of his grandmother’s – Anadama bread (recipe below) – and has been baking a couple loaves a week since the quarantine began.
“All sorrows are less with bread.”― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Bread equals sustenance. It is a staple of our American diet, and even when people try to eliminate gluten or carbs, they tend to come up with substitutes, something bread-like to take its place.
The Lord’s Prayer says, “Give us this day our daily bread.” God provided manna, a bread-like substance, for the Israelites in the wilderness. “Breaking bread” is a reference to sharing a meal, a symbol of intimacy.
COVID-19 is taking us back to the basics. It is stripping away many of the activities that defined our lives and making us rethink what is necessary. Bread symbolizes what is absolutely necessary to sustain life.
Jesus called himself “the bread of life.”
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35
Jesus cares about the hungry. He cares about your body. He cares about meeting your daily needs. His number one concern, however, is not whether you have toast or hamburger buns or Anadama bread fresh from the oven. His number one concern is your soul: Has your soul found rest in him?
Jesus is the bread of the desperate. And, aren't we all a little bit desperate right now?
“For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” – John 6:33
Before the COVID-19 crisis, I chose “water” as my word for 2020. Partly because my doctor told me I am constantly dehydrated. I don’t love drinking water. I love coffee, and I drink a lot of it – to my detriment, my doctor says. I need to drink more water.
What I do love is water in nature: Camping trips on the Oregon Coast are some of my favorite memories – the tide pools, the blow holes, searching for agates, the waves crashing against the rocks, relentless. And, while you’re headed to Oregon, a day of hiking the waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge never gets old – the different formations, the spray on your face. Tubing the Little Spokane River is a weekly, sometimes daily, activity for my family in summer. The sound of water, the feel of water, the power of water – I love it all, and it reminds me of God, the Creator of all this glorious beauty. He is strong and mighty. And creative. And fun.
Water plays a central role in a lot of Bible stories – creation, the flood, the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, crossing the Jordan River, the healing of Naaman, Jesus’ baptism, the woman at the well, Paul’s shipwreck… Water has the power to destroy and to heal. It flows and cleanses and is absolutely necessary for life. The human body cannot survive without it.
“Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” John 7:37-38
Similar to the way my brain immediately leaps to coffee before water, I am prone to dig my own cisterns to quench my desires for love, meaning and recognition. The Psalmist could relate: “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” A popular worship song from the eighties added these words: “…and the wells that I have dug have all gone dry.” All of the wells we dig on our own are destined to go dry. Only Jesus is an eternal spring, constantly flowing with sweet, refreshing water.
My hope is to drink more water in 2020 and with every glass to remember that Jesus is the Living Water. He lives within me, giving me life and letting that life flow from me to those around me.
This afternoon or one day soon, as you enjoy a piece of Anadama toast or a sandwich and a glass of water, think about Jesus, the Bread of Heaven, the Living Water – the life-giving diet for the desperate.
Anadama Bread – Grandma Comito
Yields 2 loaves
2 ½ cups water
2 ½ teaspoons salt
2 oz butter
5 oz molasses
1 cup cornmeal
3 cups flour
½ cup warm water
2 ½ teaspoons dry yeast
3 cups flour
• Put the first group of ingredients in a pot.
• Bring to low boil – add the cornmeal.
• Cook until mixture thickens – porridge consistency.
• Put into large bowl with lots of extra room.
• In a separate container, mix the warm water and yeast together.
• Add the first flour to the cornmeal mixture – stir with rubber spatula.
• Add the yeast water – mix well.
• Cover and let rise until doubled.
• Add the second flour – mix well.
• Add more flour as needed to get past the sticky phase.
• Shape into two loose loaves – put into oiled loaf pans.
• Let rise.
• Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.
• Brush top with melted butter while still hot.
• Let cool before slicing.