Bread of Our Mothers, Color of Memory
Performed at Lorenzo’s Bread Circus, Midwest Bakers’ Convening at the Mill City Museum, Minneapolis. 2007, private commission.
This piece is part of a series of bread performances that explores the meanings of bread in American culture. Through making dough in unusual locations, with stories and surprising results, I hope to bring viewers into a discussion of the meanings of bread in their own lives. It is this kind of thoughtful residence in “food moments” that I think helps us parse out how we interact with food in general, and how we might want to preserve or change those interactions in a food production system that largely bankrupts us of meaningful nourishment.
In this performance I made bread dough on the floor of the museum while I told stories about making bread with my mother interspliced with facts about how home and commercial bread production has changed in the 20th century. Through a trick with hidden food dye the dough became bright blue as I worked it and shaped it into tiny loaves. I invited the audience to record a story of bread-baking and in exchange take a loaf to bake at home. Witnessing the bread made on the floor and dyed an unnatural color, the audience understood that the little loaves were made as memory tokens rather than food products. Divorcing this food craft from its usual nourishing purpose freed us to think about our actions as performances and the objects produced from them as talismans of the cultural production of baking.