Bread Day: Transformation, Community, and Transformation

A personal story shared by the father of a GUS student during the 41st celebration of Bread Day at GUS.

I would like to thank the GUS community for the opportunity to speak today at Bread Day. I want to touch upon three themes today as they relate to bread—Transformation, Community, and Continuity.

If you think about it, bread is unique in the transformations that it goes through, in the journey from seed to your plates. These transformations are through the most fundamental of forces that we see around us, and yet they create profound change.

Take the example of Roti – which is the most common bread eaten in India, where I grew up eating this bread on an almost daily basis. It can be made using only two ingredients: flour and water. But those two ingredients are transformed when mixed together and shaped by loving hands with the intention of feeding a family, and then transformed again by fire in the baking process, into a truly wonderful bread that ties the whole meal together. That brings me to the second theme that I want to talk about, that of community, of bringing people and families together. Bread does just that.

There is a festival celebrated in India each October called Navratri, which means nine nights. In our family, a big pooja, or the religious ceremony and prayers, takes place on the ninth day of the festival, and the prayers are followed by a feast. At this feast, my father started the tradition of a poori eating competition. Poori is another common bread in India, a flat bread that is deep fried and usually served on special occasions. Everyone in the family would sit on the floor and eat together, much like the GUS students will do today, sharing the poori -centered meal that had brought everyone together. The competition was for who could eat the most pooris. After a few, or a few dozen, no one really knew or cared who had actually eaten how many, but due to the unifying nature of the bread, everyone felt like a winner. Even today, when we make pooris at home, I am taken back to the senses of warmth in bonding with friends and family.

The third theme is that of continuity of tradition from one generation to the next. More than any other food, I think bread, because of its simple ingredients and transformative nature, has the ability to carry traditions and recipes from one generation to the next. My mom makes a fried bread stuffed with lentils and spices, called Moong Dal ki Kachori. As a kid, I ate this bread many times without thinking about it too much. Then one day we had a few friends over and my mom was visiting, and she made a batch of these Kachoris. They were a huge hit. Everyone loved them so much that they could not stop eating them, or raving about them. My wife immediately set about learning the recipe, and now they are a constant feature at our home here in Beverly. I guess sometimes you have to told by others in order to appreciate what you already have, but thankfully, the torch has been passed, and the tradition of delicious Kachoris is safe in our family.

As you eat the different delicious breads that are here today, I would like you to think of the loving transformations that they have gone through, so they could bring all of us together, and reflect on how many of you will learn to make these treasured family recipes and carry the traditions forward.