Bring the Fire

Bring fire!

“If I survive, I will spend my whole life at the oven door seeing that no one is denied bread and, so as to give a lesson of charity, especially those who did not bring flour.” --Jose Marti

I cannot yet make the claim to have spent my whole life at “the oven door,” but I do think 22 years of time counts for something. I’m attracted to bread making as craft and baking as my daily practice. I also like to think that bread itself is a “lesson of charity.” There is something generous about the very act of making bread, and there are always gentle reminders that I am left to consider: bread is capable of rendering something greater (and more delicious) than the sum of its humble parts of flour, water and salt, that the goodness of bread is all ready present in the ingredients themselves, and the baker’s role is more about coaxing the ingredients that provide their guidance throughout the process.

Bakewell Farm is currently developing a program called, “Bread for BTUs.” The idea is simple: bring an armful of good, seasoned firewood to our oven and it will be exchanged for a nutritious loaf of sourdough bread. Let’s open up the idea of how bartering acts as a leveler. When you dismantle the monetized veneer, you begin to see the bones of true parity. Parity products are items or services that may be substituted for one another because each is functionally equivalent of another. According to proponents, bartering fosters a sense of connectedness and community among its traders. Barter-based economies are one of the earliest, predating monetary systems and even recorded history.

Why a loaf of bread for firewood? At some point, you need heat to bake bread. My own study has led me to understand that it takes approximately 500 BTUs to bake one pound of fermented dough. Bread for BTUs provides an opportunity for exchanging a thing of value (seasoned firewood– a natural, renewable resource) for a thing with added value (a loaf of bread) without the need for any cash. Anyone without cash connects directly to one of the vital roles of bread baking, retained heat. Plus, the program creates opportunities to gather, reach into the community, and create a unique way for making new friends. 

For “those who did not bring flour” perhaps you will bring fire! 

Marc Jalbert is the former owner of the Gettysburg Baking Company. While continuing to bake for the Baking Company, he’s the founding director of Bakewell Farm, a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to introduce “bread-centric” education as a means for building community while engaging in public service. Please visit us at: www.bakewellfarm.org