Artisan Bread, Broken for You: a book review

The synthetic, the industrialized, and the mass-produced have fallen on hard times. Everywhere you look there is a rediscovery of natural and sustainable methods. People love local, organic vegetables, artisan bread, real chocolate, good coffee, craft-brew and good music.  John Joseph Thompson explores this cultural shift away from mass-production toward more wholesome fare and asks what the implications are for the spiritual life. Is this a re-discovery of something important here that will re-enliven our vision of the Christian faith?

Jesus, Bread and Chocolate is much more than an exploration of three of my favorite things. Thompson explores a range of plastic-y products ranging from twang-less pop-country music, bread for the masses, chocolate that is more chocolaty than chocolate, bad coffee, and cheap beer.  Alternatively, he holds up honest, raw music which has a healthy dose of reality (twang), artisan bread crafted with love and care and good ingredients, pure chocolate, the perfect cup of coffee and a cultivated taste for the local and the small. Interwoven with these chapters on less-industrialized fare are reflections on justice, gardening and Thompson’s story.  This book chronicles his personal journey from consumer to enjoy-er. Thompson explores how the turn away from the industrialized, commodified, and mass-marketed prepares us to drink deeply from the real Jesus.

I think two different groups of people will appreciate this book. Because Thompson is attentive to justice (i.e. environmental impact, farming practices, etc), he presents a vision of faith and life that is responsible and responsive to the world around him. Thompson adds his voice to a chorus of evangelicals who are starting to be thoughtful about creation care, especially in his chapter on organic gardening. Secondly, this is a sensual book. Thompson really enjoys good sounds (music), good smells, and good eating. This is a foody-faith-buffet, inviting others to come and enjoy the feast. In both regards, Thompson imparts a thoughtfulness about what we consume and what nourishes us.

I like Thompson’s reflections and where he calls me to enjoy the good things in life. I also think he is appropriately attentive the way industrialized food (and faith) fail people. Certainly there are other domains of the Christian faith that Thompson leaves under or unexplored, but I appreciate this book for what it is.  The link to biblical theology could be clearer and Thompson’s cultural analysis could be more incisive (though he points in good directions). In the end, this is a personal journey and Thompson’s own reflections around food and faith. It is also a popular level book. For that, I give it four stars.

Notice of material connection: I received this book from the publisher via the booklook bloggers program. I was not asked to write a positive review, just an honest one.

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