Friday, April 23, 2010

Bread and Beauty

I learned a lesson about beauty in Plain City, Ohio back in my teen years. I went there with my parents for my grandma's funeral and was surrounded by many elderly conservative Mennonite and Amish folks. It was there among the cape dresses, coverings, and plain suits that I discovered true beauty.

I was a teen in Phoenix, Arizona at a fairly affluent high school. It seemed to me at the time that beauty described those who were well dressed, clear skinned , thin, and good looking. I was convinced that, for me, beauty was always going to be elusive. Until I found myself in Plain City shaking hands, accepting condolences, and looking into the clear, kind eyes of the plain folks who had come to remember Ida Kauffman Yutzy. I watched their exchanges with each other, marveled at their sincere smiles and sensed a deep peace. I inhaled and exhaled in the midst of the simplicity and hope that just seemed to be hanging around the room. Might as well breathe some in. It was a knowing moment, where a truth hits and changes one's perspective forever. These people,I thought, are beautiful. I have to say that this sublimation helped me endure the rest of my high school years. "Okay, so you might be pretty," I'd think about someone I had previously felt envious of, "but I have seen beautiful."

Thereafter I saw beauty in many places where previously I had not. I remembered my grandma's wrinkles around her eyes when she laughed and knew they had been beautiful. To this day whenever I hear my mother's voice, I hear beautiful. Generousity is beautiful. Anyone bending down to help a child is beautiful. A young person listening to someone older and wiser tell an important story is beautiful. Children with Down Syndrome are beautiful. My daughter's faces, fresh, red, and new, when first I gazed upon them were unspeakably beautiful. My husband's forbearance is beautiful. A simple homemade meal is beautiful.

When I work with bread dough, the wrinkles and lines sometimes remind me of Grandma's face. In my memory she is smiling and the creases frame her shining eyes like streams of light. That is one reason I like to make bread. The folds and wrinkles of the yeasty dough take me back to when the eyes of my heart were opened to beauty that can't be bought and will never fade.

Oatmeal Yeast Bread
1 cup rolled oats
2 T sugar
1 T shortening
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk, scalded
1 pkg yeast
1/4 cups warm water
2 1/2 cups flour
Mix together the oats, sugar, salt, and shortening.
Pour over this the scalded milk.
When cooled to lukewarm, add yeast that has been softened in 1/4 cup warm water.
Stir in flour and knead until dough no longer sticks to fingers.
Shape into a load of bread.
Let rise until double.
Bake at 374 for 35-40 minutes.

This recipe was adapted from the Mennonite Community Cookbook (1950).

Enjoy something beautiful today!

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