I just googled “differences in rye flour for sourdough bread”. Because, sure enough, we too have started baking our own bread. Like basically everyone I know in my neighborhood.
Which explains why a) people present their freshly made breads proudly on Facebook. Why b) everyone now seems to have a sourdough-starter at home with a name. Ours is called Voldemort, which proved to be the right choice, because he keeps getting stronger and stronger and hungrier. He also has the ability to resurrect when I forgot to feed him. Naming one’s sourdough is apparently a sign of a deep (subconscious) relationship. Feeding it at the same time every day like a dog or cat fortifies it. I do both. It also explains why c) I haven’t seen any flour around in any of the grocery stores lately.
So, I googled again: “Why do so many people bake now?” (Google is my go-to as you might have figured). Turned out, that this question has been asked by tons of people in the last 4 weeks and basically every newspaper has covered that topic. Here are my favorite explanations.
“We’re all so isolated now, but working with sourdough is an inherently collaborative practice,” explains Emily Hoven in The Washington Post. She has been writing her dissertation on sourdough. “You have the yeast and all the bacteria that are making the bread with you.” Note: These bacteria are also to blame, if the bread doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to. There is always a scapegoat, yeah!
Cooking and baking are quite common ways to deal with anxiety. Mindfully beating up a sourdough is super satisfying; my husband keeps telling me with hands full of dough. He is the skillful baker in our house. I just enjoy the smell and taste of the freshly made loaves. My husband assures me, that baking releases stress at once. And it’s cheaper and healthier than other coping mechanisms. Like online-shopping or having drinks before 5 pm (every day). Plus, there are no regrets about the result! Watching him fold the dough, it looks like he is meditating through this tactile task. A busy, focused body makes our minds “relax, regroup and refocus”.
Also, in times of crisis, people covet creature comforts. There is not much out there that is as simple, as satisfying and yummy as fresh bread. (Although, pancakes and French toast are just as tempting.) Which invariably leads to eating too much of it at once. “The holy grail of grain gives our monkey minds an easily digestible diversion.” Isn’t that poetic?
And for the real scientists among you (like physicists and chemists and other smart people), here is your explanation for your increased hunger in carbohydrates lately: “Eating carbohydrate foods like bread stimulates insulin, which raises the uptake by the brain of the essential amino acid, tryptophan,” says Harvey Anderson, professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto. “Tryptophan in the brain increases production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes calm and sleep in times of stress. So, enjoy your fresh bread, just don’t eat the whole loaf at one time.” (Ah! Glad, he told me.)
Last but not least, here is my personal explanation for my husband’s excessive baking. It’s a direct answer to me praying the Lord’s Prayer every time I wash my hands. “Give us today our daily bread”, here we go. And, Jesus definitely knew what we need in times of emotional and financial scarcity: Something to do, something to eat and instant gratification amidst a foggy future. So, he told us to eat and drink the simplest, yet most effective soul-food in remembrance of him; bread and wine. Enjoy!