Recently as a last act before an upcoming move, I baked two loaves of rupmaize.
It’s basically a Latvian rye bread – but it’s much more than that, partly because it’s much less.
It’s essentially rye flour, water, a little yeast if you want, and some sort of yogurt or kefir (call it turned milk). Mix it up, let the yeasts and bacterias start to do their thing and then throw in a warm box (i.e. oven) to arrest the action.
You end up with these loaves that are some crazy cross between that hearty bread eaten by dwarves and that ethereal cake of which elves partake.
It’s both sweet and sour. And it sustains. In 1944 when Latvian families were loading up their wagons preparing for evacuation, no doubt women all over the countryside were hastily wrapping still warm rupmaize in cloth and packing it in baskets.
It’s powerful stuff – one slice in the morning and you’re good until mid-day when a second slice keeps you going until afternoon repast. It can keep you fed when you may not have access to a kitchen for days or months on end.
In the year I lived in Cleveland with my Uncle Eriks and Aunt Ingrid, I recall how many evenings after dinner, Eriks would end the day with a slice of rupmaize and some black tea. I may entirely be making this up, but I remember this ritual where he would sit at the kitchen table and would fill a ceramic mug with deep black tea and he would lather a slice of rupmaize with butter and jam.
This was his dessert.
He was very particular in the details and I remember him once giggling as he explained them to us.
But I was only twelve and I didn’t get it then.
For my uncle, a survivor of war and tragedy, this was sacrament. Literally, give us this day our daily bread. As if to say, this stuff is the staff of life. Just a little bit will carry us in a time of need.
And we all have, in every moment, a time of need.
So in this moment, on this morning, I think of my Aunt Ingrid who baked the bread. And my Uncle Eriks who so appreciated it. And for both these things I thank them.