Bread is not fast. Invariably someone will point this out when I talk about baking classes for hungry kids. The ingredients are simple and readily available on almost any budget: flour and water, salt and yeast. Even the yeast is optional when bread is naturally leavened like the sourdough baguettes we love on weekend nights around here. But bread requires time. And in today’s world time often seems like the costliest ingredient. You have to mix those few ingredients and then let them rest. This is the critical “autolyse” during which the flour absorbs the water. Then a bit of salt gets added and more time is required for kneading. Since both hands are required the baker can’t do anything but knead and think about the the dough transforming in her hands. It’s a time to think about the the people that will eat the bread, too, and about the ways they might be nourished and transformed by the meal. Then the dough rests again. The dough is much better if the baker lets it rest for a while and then folds it gently to develop the gluten. And it’s made better still if she does this several times over the course of the afternoon. That means staying close to the bowl of dough, watching its temperature and feeling the texture change. Rest. Rise. Shape. Wait. More time. More attention. Bread is more than the sum of its simple ingredients, it is a gift of time. A gift of self. There are faster ways to get people fed, but few send the same message. A loaf of bread made by hand says something powerful. To break that bread and hand it to someone to eat is to hand them a bit of yourself. It means you cared enough to spend a day thinking about them, that you were willing to spend some time on them, that you want them to be well fed on the journey. And when you bake bread with someone, and break bread with someone, you build a relationship that can only come with time. Those relationships are as nourishing as the bread itself. So yes, we could teach kids to make a faster meal, and in fact we often do, but the weeks when we bake bread together are the weeks that feel special. Time may be a costly ingredient these days, but it’s also the one that changes things.