Baking bread for the Nuns

By From the Heart | Rita Meyer | From the Homefront

Dec 10

This was year #2. A while back, a friend of mine who used to work at St. Mary’s Church in Melrose but now works at St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, shared a loaf of who-knows-what-kind-of-bread I gave her — probably onion dill as I know that’s one of her favorites — with Sister Lois and Sister Teri. A spark was ignited. Sister Lois is the Director of Hospitality at the Monastery. Sister Teri is in charge of their large holiday bazaar sale always held the first Thursday of December. They were looking for a source of homemade bread. Pick me!

And this is how it goes. I bake the quick breads ahead of time and freeze them. This year that included over 40 loaves of banana, pumpkin, cranberry orange, lemon poppyseed, almond poppyseed and zucchini. The yeast breads, not so much. They are at their best, fresh.

Justine had a basketball game in Cambridge on Tuesday night. Last year Marv and I headed up to Duluth on Wednesday. This year it only made logistical sense to keep going North from Cambridge following Justine’s game. Which meant I only had two days to crank out the desired 80 loaves of yeast bread.

Bring in the reinforcements. I set up a folding table in the area between our kitchen and dining room upon which the five bread machines that I own sat. The first batch of dough started to knead about 1 o’clock Sunday afternoon and I wrapped things up about the same time Tuesday. I use my bread machines to mix the dough but then I plop it out onto cookie sheets, form it into round loaves, let it rise and bake it in my own oven. I prefer the softer crust this method produces verses the crusty-ness of baking it in the bread machine pan.

This year’s yeast breads— which used over 40 pounds of bread flour — included the onion dill I already mentioned, rosemary olive oil, cinnamon raisin, craisin orange, apple cinnamon and Italian.

After I have everything in Ziplock bags, labeled and boxed up, Marv starts trucking it out to the van and doing his strategic packing game. He does the driving. I sleep. It’s a team effort! And it’s our little Duluth winter getaway as they let us stay— and they feed us! — complimentary.

Baking bread for the sisters brings me joy. According to the very eloquent thank you note that Sister Lois wrote us, the act of sharing something I produce with my hands is truly a sacramental gift, reminding us of how we are daily invited to let God bless, break open and guide us in sharing the “bread of our lives.” I like that. I want to share more of God’s boundless love for me with others through my bread.

Rita Meyer is married and the mother of four children. She and her family are members of St. John the Baptist Parish in Meire Grove.

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