On Love and Bakeries: A Reflection


Today’s Washington Post reports that last Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration sent a formal letter of warning to a Massachusetts bakery, regarding a series of violations, one of which was with regard to the labeling of the bakery’s famous granola.

It seems that the Nashoba Brook Bakery in Concord is proud of its granola.

I’m glad.

It’s one of those artisanal bakeries where they aren’t just in the bread and cookie business, but understand themselves as part of the community in a deep way, as a place that takes care of its people, etc., all of which is also surely commendable.

People love the bakery. It has a following, and a bit of a sense of humor.

Keep that in mind, because apparently, if you look at the ingredients listed in their granola, in addition to oats and almonds and brown sugar and stuff, the folks at the bakery have also listed “love” as an ingredient.

According to the Post, “the ‘ingredient’ was a nod to the passion bakers put into their product and a wink to the fans of the snack.”

Well, that was all a little to cute to the FDA, which has regulations about such things, and so on Tuesday, they warned the bakery that “love” was considered “intervening material” on a list of ingredients, and needs to go.

From now on, if “love” is going to be an ingredient, it’s going to have to be a secret one.

What is it with love and bakeries, right now?

You’ve probably heard that in its current term, the US Supreme Court has agreed to hear Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case that is also, in its own way, about love–specifically, the right of a bakery to deny a customer service for religious reasons, namely, the baker’s faith-based objections to same-sex marriage.

The baker argues that his cakes are a form of expression, and that therefore he cannot be forced to use his creativity for something in which he does not believe. (See Robert Barnes, “In Major Supreme Court Case, Justice Department Sides With Baker…”, Washington Post 7 September 2017.)

In some sense, he’s claiming that the couple’s love represents a challenge and an affront to his own–his love of craft and right to self-expression through that craft, which is such that he feels it must be desecrated by being placed in service to an unworthy recipient, namely, a same-sex couple getting married.

Notionally, I wonder how far he takes this.

When former clients end up divorcing, does he go after some sort of marriage-means-forever security deposit? Make people return any uneaten portions of the cake they might still have in the back of the freezer?

What does the cake actually mean?

Kind of a lot. For everybody.

For many same-sex couples, there is the abiding awareness of having to keep their love secret — the all-too-familiar-reality that love as they felt and lived it was a “secret ingredient” in so many lives, almost everywhere, and among almost everyone.

That this is no longer the case in more communities (though even now, far from all) is very recent history — which explains some of the power of being able to proclaim it openly at this particular moment — as if love and the liberation of loving and being loved were not already worthy of being proclaimed and celebrated all by themselves. Which for almost everyone else, they are.

People claiming their right to love and be loved are making a powerful public act.

So is refusing to make them a cake when they do.

But it’s a fundamentally despicable one.

The Book of Leviticus declares: “No man among your descendants for all time who has any physical defect is to come and present the food of his God” for sacrifice.

“No man with a defect is to come,” it says, “whether a blind man, or a lame man, a man stunted or overgrown, a man deformed in foot or hand, or with misshapen brows or a film over his eye or a discharge from it….” (Leviticus 21:21).

The list goes on, a sobering reminder that the Bible is, indeed, often entirely comfortable with notions of second-class citizenship.

Even today, a baker who considered it essentially “un-Biblical” to bake for a blind person or someone in a wheelchair could claim solid Scriptural footing.

But the Bible also tells us about heroines like Ruth and Esther, who loved across boundaries and, in so doing, both saved themselves and became foremothers of the entire people.

In the Bible, love liberates.

The strength of the faithful and their success as a people waxes and wanes as they learn forget, and remember that central idea.

It’s the key ingredient in everything.

On that, everyone involved in the court case surely ought to agree.

That only some do tells you just about everything you need to know.

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