What do you get when you mix a diversity of microbes, people, water, salt, and joy? You get THE LIVELY LOAF – a new venture of people with and without disabilities coming together to create bread. The word “COMPANION” comes from the words “with bread.” The Lively Loaf has become a place where we foster companionship between people from all walks of life while providing sustenance for our community and beyond.
Our experiment with sourdough bread began at the Red House, when Dave Winchuck and I were preparing supper together. I mentioned in passing that I was learning to make sourdough bread from a friend via Zoom. Dave turned to me and announced that he would very much like to bake bread with me. It was that invitation that planted a seed.
From an online baking community where we learned to make bread, we transitioned into a weekly in-person program, baking bread for community members, friends, and volunteers through bread subscriptions. During the pandemic, we discovered that the time together of making bread was comforting and anchoring during uncertain times, and we wanted to continue to foster connection through this basic food that has sustained humans for thousands of years.
Sourdough is made of wild yeast – the more diverse the community of yeast and microbes that make up our sourdough starter, the better the bread. At The Lively Loaf, we are bringing together the contributions of a diversity of people – creating the right conditions for all of us to grow so that, like sourdough, a transformation of simple ingredients becomes something nourishing and sustaining. Wild yeast is always available – it takes time to harness it and nurture it. Perhaps this is true of goodness and kindness – it can be found everywhere if we look for it.
Each stage of sourdough bread-making invites us to pause, notice and listen. The process of making bread together cultivates in us both patience and anticipation. It requires time, commitment, and perseverance, not unlike building community. Many hands go into making our Lively Loaves. It is a collaborative process with many little steps – each necessary and important. From Betty weighing flour and salt, to Patrick sifting flour into bannetons (where our bread is proofed), to Stephen creating bread bag art and Pine House delivering – there is no job that is too small. There’s nothing like the smell of bread wafting out of the oven to the soundtrack of Mamma Mia while enjoying Ahmed’s dance moves as he wipes down the counters.
Simply put, we are real people making real bread. Companions, perhaps, in the true sense.