AMISH FRIENDSHIP BREAD AND THE SOCIAL NETWORK
Day 1: Mush the bag. Day 2: Do nothing. Day 3: Mush the bag…and so forth. These are the first steps in a 10 day process of making the much anticipated treat, Amish Friendship Bread. Amish Friendship Bread (AFB) is like the chain letter of most indulgence. It must be passed on or bad things will happen. The bad thing, of course, is simply the missed opportunity of eating a moist, sweet, soft on the inside, chewy-crunchy on the outside, homemade bonne bouche. I’m not sure where AFB started but I got my first “starter” about ten years ago. It is one of those bellweather symbols that indicates a cultural shift. And AFB is evidence of the increasing focus both on the virtues of home-baked goodies (Hillary Clinton baked cookies only when it was politically expedient, but New American Feminists bake goodies whenever they want to please the people they love), and the importance of neighborhood friendships. So, it comes as a “starter” in a plastic zip top bag. The starter has to be mushed, squished and socialized daily so that the happy yeast in the mixture develops and multiplies and produces the fragrant gasses that are exclusive to fermentation. The starter comes with a written recipe. (cut and paste the above link into your browser for the starter recipe). Most days all you do is “mush the bag” but on day 6 you add additional flour, sugar and milk. Then, on day 10 you add more delicious ingredients, including butter, eggs, cinnamon and vanilla pudding powder. You can bake two loaves for yourself, and have enough remaining to share 5 starters with your friends. And, like the proverbial chain letter, you have to share it. The effort, love, and rewarding conclusion of AFB simply begs sharing, and so, the pleasure is spread, exponentially.
Since I am a lover of analogies, it is my wont to make the assertion that the Internet is like Amish Friendship Bread. Your “starter” may be a video post on FaceBook of a gamboling kitten, OR, of an inebriated congressman, sitting dumbfounded in a town-hall meeting, trying to formulate a coherent response to a question from a constituent who outshines him ten fold in brain power. You may start a threaded discussion on a blog or a social networking site. People you have never met may chime in and, before you know it, a modest commentary becomes a full-blown controversy within an afternoon. And the beauty of it is; those chimers-in have been engaged and challenged in ways that cause them to both ponder and research the underpinnings of their existing opinions. Well to me, crazy expounder that I am, this mobilization of thought is delicious; the Amish Friendship Bread of discourse.
Perhaps, friends, the most delicious morsel of all is this nugget of truth, which can only be manifest through the miracles of cyber-technology and unfettered communication; that the “starters” you share on the internet can touch many lives. They can nourish, they can delight. And if our Internet Friendship Bread is based in truth and concern for the lives of the individuals we have been given to love and serve, it can bond. Our Internet Friendship Bread can bring like-minded and anxiously engaged people together in a community that does boundless good. A community the Amish would be proud of.