Creativity in the Kitchen: Baking the Bread of Life.

In case you EVER think your life doesn’t matter, or that the place you hold in the world is not important, or that the people around you don’t need YOU, please read on. What you create with the ingredients in your life is unique to you. And in some mysterious way, it nourishes everyone you meet.

This morning, I am baking banana bread. It’s in the oven now, the counters are clean and the dishes are washed; so I’m taking these moments to post a new blog. Banana bread is one of my ‘specialties’; and whenever we have overripe bananas around the house, I always try to use them up in this way. I hate to see anything not complete its purpose in the world.

This morning, when wiping down the black granite countertop, I thought (as I always do now) of my husband’s Auntie Mary. Mary told me with some intensity, “NEVER use water to wipe down a counter with flour on it; it will turn to glue. Always use a paper towel.” I always do. And I always think of her.

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I had an Aunt Mary too. They both had tough lives, with numerous sticky patches and tough nuts to crack; but they were both as full of life and joy and determination as I might ever hope to be.

The last time Ian’s aunt was in our home in England was one month after we were married and just after her husband had died. She was lost, grief-stricken, and fragile. So I asked her to teach me about baking.

As she rolled the dough out on the countertop, in her inimitable way, Mary described her first baking experience. She was 20 years old, newly married, and just arrived in the rural English farming community where her Bill was a tenant farmer. She was visiting one of the local ladies one day, and ignorantly asked where she was supposed to buy bread.

“BUY BREAD?!” came the rough response. And the woman pulled out 20 lb. sacks of flour, threw heaps onto the butcher-block and put Mary to work. Even that day in our kitchen, she didn’t use thermometers to tell the temperature; she put her hand in the oven and felt it.

Mary and Bill spent 60 years together, farming their living out of the Earth. I met Bill once, and he was a force to be reckoned with. Ian describes him best when he tells how Bill had all his teeth pulled in one sitting without anesthetic. Mary was his helpmeet.

They never had children, so their niece and nephew were especially important to them. As a woman without children of my own, I can imagine Mary wondering if she was going to leave anything in the world as a legacy. She did.

I’m sharing here a bit of video with you from that day, so that you can meet Mary for yourself. She taught me to make scones, and this is an extract from her lesson. Honestly, if she had lived longer, I would have figured out how to get her her own TV show. You’ll see what I mean.

What does all this have to do with you then?

Every one of us in life has a variety of ingredients in our cupboard:  talents, sensitivities, experiences, insecurities, the stuff we make our lives of. Knowing what to do with them makes the difference between glue on the counter and a lovely harvest of scones. It is the people we know along the way who teach us what to do, sometimes through their wisdom, sometimes by making us find ours.

Take your place. Share yourself. Bake the bread of life.

Reader Interactions


  1. Barbara Basalgete says

    Thanks for sharing the legacy of Aunt Mary. I will think of her too whenever I wipe off flour from the countertop with a paper towel. The video was great! Her hands working the dough was impressive and the hot scones looked delicious!!