We break bread to engage in an act of life. To nourish our bodies, feed our physical but also our mental and spiritual beings. Literally, breaking bread before a meal, during a meal, or as part of a snacking habit. The amount of times a loaf of bread has come before a family, sharing in its flakiness, its soft, and a comfortably familiar feeling. Having bread on the table, or the lack thereof means so many different things. What we have been blessed with, life, or what some people may struggle with: hunger.
These are all thoughts I had in a span of about 30 seconds during a meal with my grandmother this morning. She is 82 and has seen so many different parts of my life- 24 years to be exact. Almost in every single one of those years there was a meal shared with her and it involved bread. From the moment I can remember my childhood, back to the age of 5, I remember spending a long time with my grandmother. Just me and her in my parents house. 5-year-old me at the time wouldn't have understood the reason why I spent about two weeks with my grandma and barely saw my parents. At the time I probably just thought nothing but light fun of it. What I didn't know, however, was the reason why my family was away. My little sister, 2 years old at the time was going through intensive open heart surgery, obviously a moment of extreme trauma and stress for my parents.
Meanwhile back at my house, I remember waking up every morning and walking to the bakery down the street with my grandmother to buy our daily morning bread. The excitement I had every day to wake up and walk down the street and come back holding that warm paper bag filled with fresh steamy french rolls (pão françes as they're called in Portuguese) couldn't have been greater. That bread became something more than just food. It meant life- my sister's life that was being tested with, my parents lives, for being able to sustain so much stress, my own life for being blessed with an amazing family, and my grandmother's life for being with me during this time. A simple food, something that brought us the early morning joy, has meant so much to me in my life and I couldn't even imagine what it has done to people in this world who have to struggle through so much just to bring home a single loaf of bread to their family.
Bread has troubled wars, changing forever the chemistry of this daily nourishment. It has a long history and it still has not stopped. The story behind wheat is massive, a single grain with mighty power. To this day, bread ingredients cause arguments, and are impacted by policy, both in America and the rest of the world. Bao buns, chapati, and schiacciata loaves, all represent a culture and all have as much meaning as bread has had for me in my life.
Never take for granted something as simple as a slice of bread. It means the presence of life and it stands for the sweat, tears, and battles, our ancestors have gone through. Gratitude was all I could have as I broke that piece of bread and shared it with my grandmother this morning. Gratitude of being able to have her in my life for so many years, and gratitude for having had bread and good food through all my life.