portion of the artwork for Melissa Newman Evans's poems

How to Bake Bread in America
Melissa Newman-Evans

Follow the recipe. Cups of flour. Cups of water. Yeast. Salt. Simple. Too simple, really. You have no idea how you could screw this up with a recipe so simple. And when the dough is too sticky, just add more flour, look how simple this is, you cannot possibly screw this up.

Don’t look surprised when this bread turns out awful.

Do some research. Realize that real bakers weigh their flour and that dough should be sticky. You will have to learn to handle sticky dough.

Consider why you are doing this. You are sick and tired of plastic bags of bread bought from a bored cashier, and seven‐dollar artisanal loaves made with secret hands. You want to make something and then cut it apart. You want to own something so completely that you can eat it and not fear where more will come from. You want to make a land of plenty with your own hands. You want to bake something that tastes like America.

Follow the recipe again. Don’t get impatient. Weigh everything. The flour. The yeast. The salt. The water. How lucky you are to have time to spare to constantly screw up doing this one simple thing that humans have been doing for millennia. How lucky you are to have flour to waste, and have the bread still come out awful—

You started doing this because you wanted to know where your food came from, because you wanted to make something with your own hands, alone, like the lie America tries to tell itself about itself—

Consider what you are doing: trying to feed yourself and pretending like you did it all on your own. Trying to pretend the recipe is the problem instead of you, and your hands, and your own arrogance. You keep thinking of it as your bread and your country when you did not grow anything yourself.

Consider the fields where your wheat was grown, and what they used to be, before they were wheat fields. Everything we have in America is stolen and soaked in blood, even the bread in your mouth. Your bread is not the truth no matter how hard you knead it with your hands. Your bread is not a political action. Your bread is just bread. You either feed people with it, or let it get stale with waiting. No one is waiting for you to show up with your hands full of loaves and fishes and feed the world, but that does not mean people are not hungry. People are starving. And bread does not belong to anyone, not even you, not even when it comes out perfect. You know that now. How long it takes to rise.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 46 | Fall 2015