On not being yeast.

a weird post, written at the end of a difficult day, with a glass of wine in hand… not sure if it will make sense to anyone but me, but sticking it up anyway, just because it makes sense to me…

At a meeting today [which wasn’t the difficult part!], when we were talking about dreams and visions for a particular group, someone mentioned that their hope was that the group would be yeast, or leaven – a catalyst that makes the world rise.

It’s a great and faithful christian image, being yeast. But i’ve been reading Rose Levy Berenbaum’s ‘The Bread Bible’ over the last few days [bread making is my new obsession, and this book is feeding it perfectly. can’t wait to cook all weekend], and it’s interesting how there’s much less attention, in bread making worlds, paid to the yeast – it just needs to be fresh, really, and treated well in the making… it’s quite precocious to work with, and not particularly resilient. The really interesting thing for me has been discovering the importance of high quality flour – how you can’t just throw any flour together with yeast and expect it to rise; that flour needs to be strong, have a high protein level, be fresh and new. Unbleached flour works well, self raising flour is crap, the more raw flour is the better.

Yeast on its own is worthless – bread isn’t just made of yeast; it would taste crap if it was. It would also be decidedly bad for you. Bread needs flour just as much as it needs yeast; it can’t be bread without it. Which is lucky, because i’m pretty sure being yeast is not my thing. At the risk of drawing an analogy all too far, I think i’d like to spend my life exploring how to be high quality flour. And I really do like what happens when you mix the two together – they become something neither can be on their own.

It’s a real relief to work that out this week, even if it makes sense to no-one else.


  1. We made our own bread in New Zealand. When we came to Australia we had to learn to make bread all over again. The loaves just didn’t work. Turns out flour in Australia is totally different from flour in New Zealand.

    Which becomes a pretty good metaphor for contextual ministry perhaps – having to start all over again, learn to cook again?


  2. For me, the analogy is the salt in pie crust. Good pie crust is just the right amount of salty and that makes it a little sexy. But it’s the butter which makes it flaky or dry or tender or tough. Keeping the butter the right temperature, working it quickly but not hard, getting it to the right granularity (not too big, not too small) is the challenge. And it’s an enjoyable one, because pie’s tasty. You mess it up this time? Make another. In the meantime, delicious pie.

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