Saturday, September 4, 2010

When the Origin of Bread Meets the Dumpster

Finding bread in the city is like finding produce in the city, it is possible but questions of origin arise.
Here in Amsterdam now, Jake, Heather, and I have been surviving on bread and falafel. When camping out as we had been doing for the majority of the week, bread became an essential. It is easy to undermine the sacredness of bread, as here the need for bread demotes it down to somewhat of a commodity. We eat it daily. Is it realistic to know all the answers of origin in the supply chain- field to mouth- when we eat as traveling students do? We aren't about to turn down food because it wasn't grown around the corner. Here we have an exception to our ethics we built up over our month long course.
This past Monday through biking through the city of canals, we took shelter under a willow tree in the park. We broke bread and ate carrots with another fellow by the name of Daniel, a young mexican musician with such beautiful dreds, perhaps even up there with Tracy Chapman's. After mixing the sounds of his latin guitar with Jake's Ukulele, he toured us around the city some on our bikes. Thankful to be with a local to help us navigate the bustling bike lanes, we accompanied him to a bakery where he picks up the bread that would be thrown away at the end of the day and distributes it to friends living in the city. This happens at most bakeries, all around the world- perfectly good bread that didn't sell is thrown away after one day. In this form of dumpstering one faces the baker or the bread seller directly- hand to hand. Taking this bread, not paying for the production, do we have the right to question origin? Is it enough to help in the chain by recycling this bread one more time before it ends up in a sewage waste system? We didn't ask questions, we feasted.
Even if we have momentarily lost some of our self proclaimed bread conosiour stati over the last week, however, we still remain incredibly- if not more- grateful to the sustainance bread brings. Looking into Daniel's trash bag of treasures the other day was like beholding thousands of tiny suns in the form of rolls, croissants, and loaves. Some had seeds, others just loads of butter, some with thick crusts, browned to perfection. Sometimes we sacrifice part of our values, but we will never sacrifice the gratitutde we have towards a good meal. Sharing bread with strangers and friends alike extends beyond the wheat growing methods and baking process.
The spirit of the bread lives on!

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