Gluten-ous Maximus

We had a belated St. Patrick’s Day potluck at work. With my love of baking and my co-workers’ love of exploiting this, I volunteered to make Irish Soda Bread and Guinness Bread (thank you,


The day I made the bread, my apartment smelled heavenly for hours. When the Guinness Bread was in the oven, I couldn’t decide if the place smelled more like a bakery or more like the grounds of a brewery.  Either way, YUM.


I’ve loved bread for a long, long time. The taste of it, the aroma of it, the texture of it – everything! Maybe it’s because my earliest memories of being an active participant in the kitchen involve helping my mom make banana bread. Or because I grew up before “gluten free” and “cutting carbs” popped into the American conscience and decided to nest. Or because I have runner blood in me, and you know we runners can knock back some bread.


Bread is so elemental. It’s quite possibly the simplest, most basic food in the world to make [and yet kind of tricky — one of my proudest moments in life was the one time I successfully made bread – not sweet bread, but bread bread, complete with yeast and thermometer. It’s a process!] .  If people have nothing else to eat, what’s the one thing they do have, or try to have? Bread.


Thoreau said “Simplify, simplify.” I agree with him, as do plenty of other folks, and therein lies something funny. It’s almost as if people are so eager to simplify that the very act of simplification has gotten, well, complicated.  Think about all those recommendations and suggestions on how to de-muddle, de-stress, and get healthy:  Meditation! Yoga! The Paleo Diet! Organic food! Minimalist running shoes! Tools for multi-tasking! Then each of those gets dissected: what kind of yoga? Is that food really “organic,” or just “natural”? What about barefoot running? And all of this is hawked ad nauseum in magazines, books, and TV shows where “experts” happily tell you how to make your life easier. Healthier. Simpler.


Yeesh. I don’t know about you, but I almost want to go for a centering, sanity-soothing run just thinking about it.


Thus, I present: BREAD. Ancient civilizations – now they knew how to live simply, eh? – ate tons of the stuff. The Bible is full of references to bread. Heck, 1 Kings 19: 5-8, with Elijah and the bread-pushing angel, might be history’s first recorded instance of carbo loading! Not to mention pop culture references:  What does Jean Valjean steal in Les Miserables? What does a young Peeta give to a young Katniss in The Hunger Games? We even have phrases like “bread and butter,” to signify the basics, the nuts and bolts of existence.


Bread is as old and as omnipresent as the ground we walk on. Is it any wonder, then, that it offers such physical and emotional support?


If you have figured out how to navigate through all the muck, and lead a simplified, beautifully non-hectic life, you have my great respect, and envy. But if your last run, or yoga class, or even church service, didn’t quiiiite have the desired effect, I have a wild suggestion: go to a bakery. Inhale. Inhale some more. Maybe even nibble on a freshly-baked slice. See what it does for you.




12 thoughts on “Gluten-ous Maximus

  1. It must be the freshness of spring that reunites us with our sense of smell and a need to simplify. I agree, inhale deeply…..bread, flowers, life….

  2. Great post! I’ve been looking at a banana recipe all weekend – and you inspired me to go home and make it today 🙂 Great way to start my Monday, and have my house smell a little bit like heaven!

  3. Hi Shannon
    Great post. I have baked Guinness Cake but never Guinness Bread (and I’m Irish!). Baking and eating bread is one of life’s simple pleasures and I think toast, butter and jam is the ulimate comfort food.

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