Books and the Art of Breaking Bread
Hannah Griffin’s Recipe For Life
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Breaking Bread is an often-heard phrase that in modern-day parlance means engaging in a comfortable, friendly interaction. Traditionally, the term meant that a loaf of bread would be broken among a casual gathering of people to share and eat.
This notion harkens back to Biblical times where it was common to have a meal with someone, breaking off pieces of a bread loaf to ensure that everyone is fed. Jesus would commune with his disciples and give out pieces in an informal manner that signified trust, confidence, and comfort.
In the spirit of this bread breaking experience, I recently made a virtual connection with an interesting young woman by the name of Hannah Griffin, who is the writer and curator of a new digital publication called Good Books, Good Bread. Hannah says she started it as a “way to tie together two of her favorite things in a meaningful and fun way.”
Hannah is a lifelong lover of reading who enjoys a range of memoir, fiction, outdoor adventure, science fiction and graphic novels books. But what is super badass about her life is that she lives in a cabin in Paradise Valley, British Columbia.
Five years ago she started baking bread and discovered a passion for trying new recipes and sharing delicious bread with people in her life. A fellow journalist, Hannah has worked for clients like Al Jazeera, The Guardian, and VICE.
And if her life were not already interesting, Hannah shared with me that works for a company in the atmospheric carbon removal space. And when not at work, you’ll find her exploring the mountains and rivers of British Columbia.
I reached out to Hannah recently to find out more about her epic journey at the intersection of Books + Bread. Here’s what she had to say:
A little about you, your life story, and the evolution of your reading and baking interests over the years.
Hannah: I grew up in Toronto, Ontario, and was lucky to spend a lot of my childhood traveling with my family and going on extended canoe trips in the Canadian wilderness. Whether I was in a canoe or exploring other countries with my parents and siblings, I always had a book with me. My parents were also big readers, and before every trip, my mom would take us to the library to stock up. Ever since, reading has been a really integral and fulfilling part of my life.
What genre of books did you find interested you the most during those early years?
Hannah: As a child and teenager, I almost exclusively read fiction, enjoying the escapism of made-up worlds and characters. When I was 25, I went to NYU to pursue a graduate degree in journalism. While there, I discovered the power of stories, some so out-there you couldn’t make them up. That’s when I began reading a lot of non-fiction.
So when did your interest in baking come to life?
Hannah: I became interested in baking bread much later, making my first loaf in 2018. At the time, I was having a tough time mentally and feeling really confused about my life’s trajectory. So I got a sourdough starter from a local bakery, a recipe from a friend, and began trying my hand at baking bread. It was really soothing for me, and also a confidence boost that I could make a great-tasting bread myself. I kept baking and learning different techniques, and it became a highlight of each week.
How does all of this fit into your broader lifestyle?
Hannah: Today I live in a little cabin outside of Squamish, British Columbia, a beautiful mountain town north of Vancouver. I bake bread a few times a month. Sourdough is always my go-to, but bagels, challah, english muffins, pizza dough and pitas are in the regular rotation too. I read all kinds of books these days: graphic novels, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, the odd history book, and am a big fan of the Squamish Public Library. There isn’t a bookstore in Squamish, so any time I’m in another town or city that has one, I high-tail it over there. I never feel guilty spending money on books.
And outside of reading, baking and work, what are your other interests?
Hannah: I spend a lot of time outside—skiing, snowboarding, whitewater kayaking and hiking with my husky mix, Pippa. Just like when I was little, I always pack a book on adventures. I’ll cut my toothbrush in half for a backcountry hiking trip to save weight, but I won’t blink at packing a hardcover book!
What inspired you to launch Good Book/Good Bread? And why the decision to explore the intersection between books and bread?
Hannah: My job is working at a company in the clean technology space. It’s incredibly rewarding and I feel really aligned values-wise with my work. It’s also quite busy, so when I’m not working, I spend a lot of my time unwinding by making bread and reading good books. Last year, I was mulling over whether there was a way to start a creative project that combined the two, but I couldn’t envision how they fit together until a few months later. I was on a trail run, which is when good ideas seem to appear for me, and thought about recommending books and then figuring out a bread to bake that fit with an aspect of the story. It took me a few months to make it happen, but at the end of 2021 I launched Good Book/Good Bread.
Tell us more about this intersection between books and bread that you hope to feature over time
Hannah: The connection or intersection between the book and bread I recommend in each issue is generally not very obvious. So it’s an engaging challenge to figure out how to tie them together in a meaningful way. In a more general sense, the overlap between books and bread for me is that they are both really relaxing and are fully immersive. When I’m really into a book or focused on shaping a loaf, I’m not thinking about anything else.
Describe your greatest hope in terms of what readers take away from your publication?
Hannah: Just like the focus of my publication is two-fold, so are my hopes in terms of what readers take away from it. In terms of books, I hope readers find a book from my recommendations that they connect with and spend time wrapped up in. I aim to share book recommendations that have completely engrossed me, stayed in my head for days after reading, and altered my perspective. I know it can be easy to get into a reading rut, so ideally I can suggest books people may not have come across on their own.
Any final thoughts?
Hannah: In terms of the bread baking side of my publication, I hope it inspires people to just go try making bread, even if they don’t know what they’re doing. Truly, anyone can make bread. I’m not a professional. My bread doesn’t look Instagram-ready. I usually have at least one mishap every time I make bread. But I bake bread because it’s incredibly fun and rewarding, and it makes me happy. There’s a real joy and satisfaction to spending a few hours learning how to create something new, filling your house with the amazing smell of baking bread, and getting to share it with your favorite people.