The comforts of bread

Is herbed oil and bread a meal? According to the wisdom of Tamar Adler, it can be.

“Bread can be the thing you’re eating, not a prelude to the meal, or an afterthought. It is not bad for you. Whether as piles of toast, generously buttered, or thick slices rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil, eating bread with intention is a good dietary strategy.

I can think of no better way to get good, healthy vegetables, lush, ripe, and in season, to the middle of your plate than to let them balance on freshly toasted bread. Instead of worrying about lots of ingredients with which to trot around, buy a loaf of bread with a hard crust. Pick it based on how enticing it looks, and on how good it smells. Pick something that is round and fat or, if it is oval, that still had good girth at it send, so you can get a lot of big, healthy pieces out of it. Make it a loaf that will require slow, deliberate chewing.”

She goes on about bread for the rest of the chapters, and it’s a scrumptious few pages to read… but I’ll get back to my lunch now. On this February Monday afternoon, I’m letting myself divulge in some bread and oil with Rosa Maria seasoning and not letting myself feel guilty about it. I also made some kale chips, which I may say that I never thought I’d like, but my palate has come around to. While I scarf down this delectable yet simple meal, the family pup sits beside me, opening her big eyes and begging for a bit of herself. (I give her a few nibbles.)

Bread is often a symbol for food, eating, and life: “Breaking bread” means to eat. “Our daily bread” refers to food. “It is also called the staff of life, which I like: bread there, all life leaning against it,” says Adler.

I’m eating bread in my mom’s kitchen today. I have a long to-do list yet a strong desire to go for a walk in the balmy, late-winter, 60-degree weather outside and ignore all my responsibilities.

I’m starting a new job soon. It makes me simultaneously nervous and excited. It will be nice having the stability of a 9-5, a steady paycheck, and insurance. Yet I’m nervous. I often question myself — Is the job meant for me? Will I have the work/life balance I crave, or will I be up late on weeknights finishing up work? I’m really good at what I do? Will I disappoint my new co-workers? Will they second guess if they made the right decision in hiring me? Can I learn everything I need to in the first 90 days and show competence? Can I do this?

Thus far, I’ve changed jobs more than I expected too. My career hasn’t really gone in the way I expected. But do careers really go the way as expected anyway? No. They surely don’t most of the time. Which is why I’m here, with a new job.

At the end of 2021, I stepped away from my job. (My company was being acquired, and I chose to not continue with them.) It was a risk, I know. I decided to start this new year with a blank slate. I took the jump into the unknown and said “no thank you” to a salary with benefits. But in saying no, I got to keep my intellectual property. I chose to have ownership over my work outside of the 9-5 workweek.

I did not expect this to happen in my career. Once I found a full-time job, I thought I’d have time to get really good at it and settle into the rhythm for the next five to six years before moving onto a company of my own creation. Instead, I was back working part-time at the beginning of the year, but with the right to own anything I create.

Since making that decision, I’ve realized if I’m going to make anything of my own, I better start now. But when starting now, my biggest question has been the same that I’ve found throughout my entire career: am I really good at what I do? Can I be good at writing regularly? Do I live a life worth writing about? Are my thoughts and viewpoints on life interesting enough for people to follow along?

Within the next week, I’ll be starting a new full-time job soon. I’m genuinely looking forward to it, but I also want to make room for my own projects in my own time. And I’m here, in this intersection of opportunity and potential, and I’m questioning myself if I can do it all. Do I have what it takes to be good at a new job and be a writer? Am I good enough? Am I strong enough? The questions can feel like heavy bricks on my chest.

I realize that these are all these questions that pivot on self-doubt — and no one can reassure me more than myself. I also know I’m just ranting about my worries and endless internal dialogue at this point. But these are the constant questions that plague me into never getting any work done. Instead, they fester and leave me staring at a blanket screen while precious time passes along.

My fears of not being good enough or worthy enough for any of my hopes and dreams can feel crushing. Maybe if I give these questions and insecurities time on the page, they will leave me alone long enough to actually write something worth reading. Nevertheless, I will eat the bread beside me for lunch. I will let all my impending questions on life and doubt lean on its hard crust and soft, gluten center. I’m going to let this bread fill my belly. At the same time, I muddle around in the process of creativity — finding what I am meant for, what my doubt can say about me, and ultimately reaching for those words that, in my heart, I know I need to say.

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