The Artistry of Bread
The creator of Don Quixote, Spanish novelist, playwright, poet, said “All sorrows are less with bread.”
We heartedly agree… a nice slice of warm, fresh bread can make everything better. And Mary Parr of Sourland Bread is an expert in the field. The mission of Sourland Bread is so simple and powerful: Empowering people everywhere to recognize their own ability to heal through the wisdom of Eastern Medicine and the alchemy of sourdough bread. Her ability to communicate her passion for baking and her desire to create community is so evident, it’s wonderful to witness. Mary’s bio on the Sourland Bread website is very impressive:
Getting to Know Mary
“Mary Parr founded Sourland Bread in 2013 after she went on a trip to France that changed her life. For years, she was unable to eat bread without feeling very sick. She went to several specialists who determined she had a gluten allergy and should steer clear of it in order to feel her best. But while she was in France, she took a risk and discovered she could eat every type of bread without any issues.
She came home determined to figure out why so many people in the United States had a problem with gluten. She borrowed a friends bread machine, used French flour from her travels, and created her own sourdough starter to make that first loaf of bread. She was instantly hooked and began to discover that it wasn’t the gluten that was the issue, but rather the way that commercial bread was made that caused many people to not feel good after eating it. After all, bread had been made for thousands of years and gluten had never been an issue before.
At the time she was in graduate school studying Traditional Chinese Medicine and had a keen interest in Nutrition. She became determined to find out how people could benefit from the vitamins and minerals that organic, whole grain bread gives and discovered through a ton of research that the KEY to great, healthy bread was fermentation and the use of a sourdough starter or “mother.”
She began baking loaves for family and friends who began wanting some of their own and requested that she teach them her methods. Later, she obtained a Cottage Food License and began selling bread at Farmers Markets in CA. She also began teaching her user friendly, simple methods right on her picnic table in her family’s yard in late 2013.
For over seven years now she has taught over 1,500 people to bake their own nutritious bread in the comfort of their own homes using simple methods.
Her ultimate hope is to educate people about the importance of eating whole grains, to simplify the art of baking bread, and to unite us, one loaf at a time. She truly believes that each and every one of us has the innate ability to heal ourselves and it is through this connection of the earth through whole grains that she believes it can happen.
Mary now lives in Central NJ where she lives with her two sons Theo and Miles, husband, and their senior pup. She is teaching both online and in-person now and has a Wellness Center where she practices Eastern Medicine, teaches mindfulness practices, and hopes to begin offering nutrition-based classes in the future.”
We were lucky enough to be able to catch Mary for a minute to talk about the beauty of bread… and she also shared this great video that can help us make sourdough :).
“I have learned that no matter what the circumstance, that if I take it in stride and focus on the day, then more will be revealed and I find that it helps me stay centered and calmer in the harder moments.”
-Mary Parr Sourland Bread
Hi Mary, thank you for doing this… could you tell us what or who got you into baking sour dough bread?
France and my honeymoon got me into baking bread truthfully. Well, I had been gluten-free for several years before then because bread made me sick to my stomach and bloated and unhappy, but in France, I found the bread did not give me any of my normal digestive upset and so it really reassured me that I had to figure out ways for myself and others with a gluten intolerance to eat real bread again.
What is so special about sour dough bread?
Sourdough is special because it is made using wild yeasts aka a “mother” or “leaven” which is created by mixing flour, water, and essentially air and time together in a jar. It is full of life force or “jing” as we call it in Eastern Medicine, and it is what gives bread its oven spring and ultimately its incredible flavor profile and makes it a nutritional powerhouse.
What to you love about baking sour dough bread, do you like to bake in general?
Sourdough is near and dear to me because it symbolizes community and family to me, and the importance of “breaking bread” with one another. In the beginning I mainly baked because I was determined to figure out why so many people had an issue with gluten and could digest sourdough thanks to the fermentation aspect, but over the years it has become a form of meditation for me, it connects me to the earth, and the greater purpose of living – they don’t call it “the staff of life” for no reason, right?!
Who gave you the most support when you decided to teach sour dough bread making to the public?
I would have to say my husband, Kevin. Sure, he called himself “quality control” in the beginning, but ultimately he has always taught me to “raise my own flag” and believe in myself.
You created, “Sourland Wellness” website, please tell us about it?
I am also a Physician of Eastern Medicine. I created Sourland Wellness as a center for the community where they could come and experience healing modalities, such as Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, Sound Healing, yoga, meditation, etc. I wanted people to have a space to heal in, a space to gather, and break bread with one another. Sourland Bread and Sourland Wellness are both named after the area of Central NJ where they are located…they rest upon a 17 mile mountain range called the Sourlands, which are truly beautiful and have so much right history and heritage to them. When we moved here, I fell in love with the land and knew that I had to connect my business names to the earth that runs through them.
What’s been a real high point in your career as an advocate for wellness?
Truthfully, there have been many. I would have to say that having worked with so many hundreds, and now thousands of individuals, on their healing journey, whether it be through sourdough or Eastern Medicine has been so fulfilling for me. And the fact that I can share what I have learned with others over the years is just the best. One of my favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou, “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” Those are words I live by.
Did the global pandemic have an impact on your passion for baking bread and teaching it on zoom?
It definitely did. I was really sad in the beginning and wondering how I could make it work online but then I just decided to take the plunge, that there were people out there who really wanted to learn and were in need of connection, and I leaned into that. Luckily it turned out to be so amazing and now I can teach people all over the world, thanks to Zoom.
What inspires you these days?
My kids inspire me to be a better human being, a better mother, ultimately. I am also inspired by how resilient they are, and how much they let things go. It is a beautiful thing to witness first hand. I am also inspired by people who take chances and follow their hearts desires, even when they feel afraid to do so.
What are you currently creating or working on?
I am contemplating creating a “Global Bread Summit” where people can join from all over the world via Zoom and mix dough together, as a form of fostering peace in our world. The planet and all of us need the light more than ever right now, and I am trying to brainstorm on how I can help people do so, and let it ripple through the world.
What’s your motto or words to live by?
“Day by Day…” I think as a working mother, wife, sister, friend, daughter, I can feel the overwhelm settling in sometimes. I have learned that no matter what the circumstance, that if I take it in stride and focus on the day, then more will be revealed and I find that it helps me stay centered and calmer in the harder moments.
What makes you laugh?
Someone with a great laugh makes me laugh. It is a ripple effect for me. My sister Karen, my kids, they all have these wonderful boisterous laughs and I can’t help but join in.
Cake, Pie or Ice Cream?
Oh definitely pie. Apple pie with lots of cinnamon. It is just the best.
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