…that was Adele’s slow tongue-in-cheek response to my question.
I was chewing a bite of limpa when I asked, “What exactly is this?”
Let me back up a minute. During the holidays we bought a cookbook titled Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.
Adele checked it out of the library for the first time back in the Fall and, after renewing it for weeks, we began to compare the cost of ownership with the cost of fuel to drive back-and-forth to the library. So we bought it.
The title is a little misnomer – it takes more than 5 minutes a day to bake fresh, artisan bread. But the authors have developed a system that puts most of the work into one day for setting up the dough, before storing it in the fridge. After that day the preparation is only about 5 minutes (bake time varies).
[I personally think it was my grandmother who actually developed that system – she did all of her cooking on Saturday and ate on the spoils throughout the rest of the week (sometimes on the spoiled, not altogether trusting refrigeration).]
During the holidays we made a few seasonal selections and completely enjoyed baking, eating, and sharing the bread with friends and neighbors.
After most of the Christmas trees were put away (yes, I still have 2 up), the seasonal selection plan turned into a new year’s resolution: Let’s work our way through the book, baking a new, artisan bread every couple of weeks until we’ve tried them all.
The bread-of-the-week was called limpa. It is described as a “traditional Scandinavian comfort food.”
I grew up with bread, so I know what bread tastes like. AND, I know there are different kinds of bread.
The staples at my home-of-origin were four:
- buttermilk biscuits: homemade, served hot, almost always buttered, but they could be accompanied by grape jelly, apple butter, sorghum syrup or (wait for it…) ketchup
- sliced bread: white and soft with a little crust on it (that had to be cut away for the perfect PB&J), came from the store in a yellow plastic bag, and accompanied any full course meal that didn’t have biscuits
- cornbread: not out of a box, but also scratch-made – especially my grandmother’s, which included cracklins and was baked in cast iron (at the fireplace through the winter)… classic southern cornbread – the kind that would suck 80% of the moisture right out of your body, and
- doughnuts: a delicacy usually reserved for a Sunday morning or some other special occasion
After I married, Adele taught me about Yankee cornbread (which we called cake where I grew up). She introduced me to wheat bread and rye bread. When we moved to Louisiana we started using French bread (though I never liked the dry kind they use for po-boys), Italian bread, and French doughnuts, called beignets. A few years back I had my first Challah bread –French Toast made with it at the Marietta Diner – mmmmm.
So, I entered this year of artisan experimentation pretty sure I knew what bread was.
Nothing, however, prepared me for limpa.
Adele got so tickled with my frustration that she pushed me to try to put words to my confusion.
I came up with 2 reasons:
First, it didn’t fit any category for bread that I had developed over 53 years of consuming copious amounts of bread!
It wasn’t really sweet, but it certainly wasn’t savory. It was crunchy, but also chewy. It was not dry at all – but it wasn’t moist either. It was dense and airy. I searched and searched but could not find a file to put it in.
Second, every time I thought I had a file, the limpa moved on me!
By eating the little loaf over a few days, it was able to keep me off-balance. At first the liquorish flavor of the anise was what settled as the flavor. But by day two the anise had so mixed with the orange zest that it was like a citrus liquorish (which I have never had). On day three the cardamom had risen to the surface, giving a more herbal, spicy flavor top billing. Finally, the 4th and last day, the honey and sugar gave it a wonderful, warm sweet-bread finish.
No past-category to plug it into and organic/dynamic – very in-the-moment… no bread I have ever had was like that. So I was flabbergasted to declare it bread.
I believe this is also why I sometimes have a hard time describing faith in Jesus to people.
I know everyone has a religion file system in their heads… something they have built over a lifetime. Some of it likely came from their family-of-origin (biscuits and sliced bread). Some of it has come from living around different people in different places (Yankee cornbread and Louisiana French bread). Some it has come from their own experiments (our journey through the artisan bread book).
But, it’s there… I know because I have one as well. And, frankly, I am learning that following Jesus doesn’t fit any of the categories I’ve experimented with, studied, or talked with others about.
So, when I try to describe it, they don’t seem to have a place to file what I’m saying.
Past that, since I am following Jesus, this journey has become an amazingly dynamic, organic thing.
It wasn’t always that way for me – I spent decades squeezing the relationship out of faith, settling for either a religion or a religious experience – or both. Either way, I was the master of it all so there was nothing surprisingly organic or dynamic about it.
But now, it moves on me… or, more precisely, He moves on me. Just when I think I have Him all figured out and categorized, He surprises me.
I guess none of this should come as a shock to me. Jesus once famously said, “”I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever.” (John 6:35, the message)
That doesn’t fit any file – and it’s pretty darn dynamic!
Now, to a fresh loaf of limpa.