The Ritual of Making Bread

This essay has been adapted from Beth Ricanati, M.D.'s upcoming book, Braided: A Journey of a Thousand Challahs to be published on September 18th.

You can pre-order the book here


BethRicanati

I make bread every Friday.

I made my first batch of challah dough over ten years ago, almost on a dare. It turned out so well, I did again. And again. Before I consciously realized it, I had found my meaningful ritual. This weekly exercise means so much to me that I wanted to share how I got to this point in my life. So I wrote a book.

Braided: A Journey of a Thousand Challahs will be published this September. I had never written a book, except for a manual I wrote in high school. In fact, I didn’t even know initially that I wanted to write a book like this, part memoir, part history of challah. But then I couldn’t wait to share my story.

I was a busy clinician in practice with three small children when I started making challah. Since then, I have made challah on the east and the west coast, while raising our children, and while trying to keep at least three goldfish and a dog alive – alas unsuccessfully I must add for those poor goldfish. I have made challah while mourning the loss of both my father and my father-in-law. I have made challah alone and with other women—some of them close friends and some I had not even met before we started to bake bread that morning. 

Why have I, a physician who espouses healthy eating and healthy living, made a loaf of white bread every Friday?

Why have I gone on to write a book about it?  Because countless demands on my time and energy overwhelmed me. Because one night when my children were little I even convinced myself that running in place in the upstairs bathroom while I sorted the day’s mail counted as exercise. Because as a physician I know all too well that stress like this makes us sick—not just theoretically sick, but actually sick. Because I have learned that through this weekly ritual of making bread that I could change this pattern. In taking this time each Friday to sink my hands in a bowl of dough, I have learned that I can stop for a half-hour and breathe while I crack eggs and measure flour. I can make something nutritious and delicious with my own hands and, in the process, I can reconnect with myself and with other women.


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BETH RICANATI, M.D.

Beth Ricanati, MD is the Science & Medicine Editor of The Thirlby. Her debut book, Braided: A Journey of a Thousand Challahs chronicles her journey of a thousand challahs and one woman’s quest for wellness and peace. This physician-mother has built her career around bringing wellness into women’s everyday lives, especially busy moms juggling life and children.  She has practiced at the NY-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, the Cleveland Clinic, and now at the Venice Family Clinic. In addition, her writings have appeared in peer-reviewed medical journals and many lifestyle blogs. Ricanati lives in the Los Angeles area with her family and one challah-loving dog.