Baking with Compassion: A Peaceful Transition Into the Age of Trump

By Sarah Owens / Photography By Ngoc Minh Ngo | Last Updated May 29, 2018
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Sourdough the cookbook by Sarah Owens.

Editor's Note: In our winter issue we looked to Sarah Owen's cookbook when we felt a sense of despair after the election. In light of the inauguration, we asked her how to bake through any situation that arises over the next four years.

As we exhaled the final breaths of 2016, we inhaled the reality of a new year. Unfortunately for many of us, the inauguration of our new president brings four more years of uncomfortable holidays squirming next to the in-laws at the dinner table. The following is some advice from my kitchen to yours on how to cope without losing your appetite or censoring your lifestyle in lieu of civility. This month’s transition in particular will bring with it conflicted feelings and emboldened personas. My motto for dealing? Bake a better world.

It is easy to feel paralyzed by the uncertainty of our future or to opt out of political rhetoric in favor of politeness. Conversation on any number of current events, from climate change to women’s rights to the refugee crisis, can quickly turn heated and raise voices – a situation that only escalates intolerance. We may, however, encourage compassion on a very simple level: baking a loaf for a neighbor, hosting a pizza night with friends, or sharing a pile of cookies is an immediate expression of love and caring. Baking is a gesture of goodwill born from your hands and motivated by the heart. It is a miracle of alchemy initiated with kindness that begs to be shared. There is no better time to do it than in the dark days of winter as our nation feels more divided than ever. A toothsome assemblage of flour, sugar, and butter can gently dissolve tensions even in the prickliest situations. Afraid you can’t bake? You’ve got four years of practice to knead through fear, slap-and-fold frustration, degas refined white dough, leaven whole grains, and feed your mothers and sisters. Take what we have on the horizon and you’ll be a pro by 2020.

Listen: Bungalow Baking Tunes

As you organize yourself to bake the following recipes, I urge you to remember that eating is an agricultural act and one that allows us to peacefully protest. By choosing ingredients that are grown with intention, we are opting out of a system of large-scale agriculture that lacks social and environmental responsibility. We can avoid a diet laced with unwanted ingredients with an opportunity to proudly proclaim, “I choose.”

Purchasing flour from a genetically diverse seed bank, grown by a small farmer, processed by a regional miller, and sold to you through Greenmarket Grains is creating an alternative network. This network reinforces accountability and establishes opportunity for a free and fair market. By authorizing a free market we support healthy food rather than edible commodities and maintain reverence for natural resources. We can choose to support agricultural diversity, regardless of what walls are being built or what signs of climate change are being ignored.

The following are three recipes adapted from my first book Sourdough to encourage compassion in the following year. I have compiled a soundtrack to help you motivate while you mix and knead your way through feelings of frustration and celebrate clarity and perspective through baking. This playlist keeps me in the groove while I bake from my bungalow test kitchen in Rockaway where I spend time writing and also contemplating the sinister side of humanity. We cannot turn toward the light if we do not face the darkness. I’ve included songs that recognize unfortunate political patterns in our recent history but ones that also celebrate the triumphant nature of hope and love for our brethren. Many are a fine reminder that we have faced and surmounted racial inequities, intolerance, and war with funky grooves blasting through the speakers. So crank the volume – we have a lot of work to do.

Sarah Owens | @sarah_c_owens

Sourdough Pizza Crust

Sourdough Pizza Dough from Sarah Owens's cookbook.
When I’m feeling isolated by an onslaught of negativity in the news, this is the easiest way to assemble a comforting and delicious evening of friends. There are many ways to make pizza dough with...

Smoky Chili Bread

Smoky Chili Bread by cookbook author Sarah Owens
Bread has an incredible significance that exists well beyond daily sustenance. It represents our ability to engage in a community of people who all cooperate in support of its production from the seed...

Dark Chocolate Buckwheat Cookies

Dark Chocolate Buckwheat Cookies by cookbook author Sarah Owens
These rich whole grain cookies provide solace with the time-honored salve of chocolate. Whip up a bunch to bring to work or share with a thermos of tea if you are marching in the Womens March....

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