By Bread Alone, is the second book by baker and author, Kendall Vanderslice. Her first, We Will Feast, is a survey of various iterations of dinner church. I plan to throw up a video review of that book in a few days.
In contrast to her first book, By Bread Alone, is a more personal journey. Here she traces how her development as a baker informs her personal, spiritual development, and vice-versa.
When I get a new book I like to check the reviews in the front pages or on the covers. As I read through those, I note that both Adrian Miller and Greta Keslinger make positive comments. this builds my curiosity before I start reading the book. Ki
By Bread Alone Without the “Not”
By Bread Alone occurs twice in the Bible. The first is Deuteronomy 8:3, where the Israelites are receiving instruction before their entry into the Promise Land.
3 He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.Deuteronomy 8:3 NRSVUE
In Matthew, Jesus uses these verses to rebuke the devil, during his wilderness temptation:
3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,
‘One does not live by bread alone,Matthew 4:3,4
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
The Matthew 4 reference appears early in the book. The Deuteronomy one does not. Yet, in many ways they define the nature of By Bread Alone. Vanderslice is using baking to demonstrate the ways God can transform us.
Death, Resurrection, and Transformation
The book divides up into four sections. Each section deals with an ingredient basic to making bread: flour, water, yeast, and salt.
These four are all simple ingredients. On their own, there is nothing particularly amazing about them. When combined though, they give up their individual essences to create a new one. They produce a food that provides a great deal of pleasure along with an ability to sustain our lives.
This process works best when given time. Time to ferment, time to rise, to rest, and time for all those elements to mix together into a new thing.
Vanderslice takes these processes and uses them to illustrate how her life has been changed by this process. Her story is not one of going from triumph to triumph. She writes of struggling to accept her own body. Of pursuing dreams that don’t pan out.
Yet, at the same time she talks about how being in the bakery, preparing bread has becoming a sacred activity. More than that in making bread she has the opportunity to share not only the bread she bakes, but also to use that bread to help build community.
This building of community is an important aspect of this book. As a single woman, Vanderslice knows of the loneliness that exists out of not being able to find a long-term, sustainable relationship. Yet, she is also continuing to learn and deeply value the other relationships that help shape her life.
Patience is one of the key factors that runs through the book. Making good bread requires patience. Building community requires patience. Most of all, learning to love and accept ourselves as God loves us, requires patience.
Vanderslice is not working through new ground in By Bread Alone. Gunilla Norris and Thomas Merton are just two examples of writers making use of baking bread as metaphor for spiritual development. However, she brings a fresh look to the topic, along with a deep, personal, honesty. This is a book I would highly reccommend.