The delightful and talented folk from Rude Health kindly invited me to rant (and help sell cereal – mucho fun, and attend the party – super mucho fun) at the Abergaveny Food Festival this week end. It was a perfect time for me to rant about the pope. More precisely, I had to rant about the pope’s rant about the rise of secularism. My concern with the pope’s rant is twofold:
1. He does not seem to take any responsibility for this state of affairs.
2. He offers no concrete solution save for “go to church more”, and just right now that is not a compelling idea.
I have some advice and a call to action for the pope and it will surprise nobody to read that my advice centres on bread because, as you know by now, bread is the very small answer to most of the world’s big problems. To that end, my advice to the pope is this: Your holiness, you have got do something about the communion wafers.
Communion wafers are identical, tasteless pieces of what appear to be edible plastic extruded or stamped out in a factory somewhere run by robots and untouched by human hands. There is no humanity in a communion wafer. There is no spirituality in a communion wafer. Indeed, may I suggest that they are rather secular in nature.
The communion bread is supposed to be, well, bread, as dictated by Christ as the symbol of his body. Bread is the physical manifestation of all that is unique, frail, imperfect, and potentially good and graceful about humanity. Bread long predates Christ as a metaphor for life. Christ could have chosen a felafel or a pot of honey to represent his body but he chose bread because it was already instinctively recognised as the embodiment of everything that was basic and necessary for life itself. Bread is life. Good bread is good life.
Good bread is the end product of a good process that includes good farming, milling, baking, and distribution. It is baked at least in part by hand and, as such, bakers actually put themselves into their loaves, sharing themselves with those who eat their bread. Good bread has individuality and humanity. Most of the bread bought in this country, however, is produced with flour that is industrially grown and milled. It is industrially baked, untouched by human hands, put in plastic bags and shipped for miles to end up on the supermarket shelf. Just like a communion wafer, it lacks soul.
My call to action for the pope is this: get children in church schools up and down the land baking good bread on Fridays to give out for communion on Sundays. My call to action for everyone else is this: please make different bread choices. Eating white sliced bread with margerine and plastic cheese is a bit like eating slugs. It’s food Jim, but not as we know it. I know it is not easy to get good bread. Supermarkets don’t sell it and most high street bakers don’t bake it. Read the label, ask questions and put pressure on your local supermarket or baker to start stocking and making good bread. Seek out good bakers in different towns and villages, food festivals, and farmers’ markets. Buy ten loaves and put them in the freezer. Bread. Life. Your choice.