We had a small get-together in our backyard over the weekend.
Because as the number of new infections drops and more people get vaccinated locally, the restrictions have been eased and we figured a few people over for drinks and food was now not only possible, it was lawful.
Of course, I baked a loaf of sourdough as part of my contribution to the potluck.
I mixed up a nice blend of that local rye flour and some white, rested it in the fridge for an extra-long, extra-souring first proof, overnighted it on the counter so I could bake it the morning of the party as to ensure maximum freshness and…
How am I going to serve this thing? I thought.
My guests and I had been particularly careful in organizing everything to make sure all the local health guidelines were, if not followed to the letter, nodded to in respect.
We had carefully sanitized and bundled out bunches of wrapped utensils.
There were single-serve plastic gloves so everyone could dish up.
The main dishes were brought by the guests and picked to be you-touch-it-you-eat-it type foods like fried chicken, pizza, and samosas.
The beverages were all canned, and single serving.
And even the birthday cake (it was a birthday party) was individual cupcakes where we sat in a big circle and sang to the birthday gal and she blew out the single candle on her chosen treat.
But then I had this loaf of sourdough I had proudly baked. I suddenly didn’t feel comfortable serving it. I’ve been baking loaves of my sourdough for so long, and yet just for us to eat, that I didn’t even consider the high-touch, social nature of this bread.
Usually at a party I set out a loaf of bread on a cutting board with a bread knife. Guests can cut their own slice… but that created a situation where lots of people were interacting with the whole loaf and the knife.
Occasionally, I cube the bread into generous chunks for dipping either in something like a spinach dip or oil and vinegar, but a dip seemed like the kind of communal eating situation we were deliberating steering clear of.
Sometimes I’ll slice it just before I serve it, which would have probably been the best option, but even then I’m the one who is touching every slice and exposing the bread to the air and our house and…
I was being overly cautious, I know, but we’re right now in this moment of time when people are just starting to trust shared spaces again. The metaphor is something like slowly slipping into a icy mountain lake a little bit at a time, or clearing out the clutter of a big mess one piece-by-piece. The road back to normal is slow and careful. And that’s where I am: not quite ready to serve a loaf of bread because I didn’t think anyone would feel safe about eating it.
So I didn’t feel right about serving it. Friendships are built on trust and respect, and when people come to your space put their trust in you to serve them food, to me respect is putting aside your ego – even the pride of a perfectly delicious loaf of freshly baked bread – and sticking with the agreed upon party plan.
On the up side, I do have a lot of leftover bread.