Breaking Bread

Professor treats students to homemade baked goods

A group of students sit outside and pass a loaf of bread on a cutting board to each other

With the pandemic and nationwide quarantining occurring in March 2020, many took to baking bread to pass the time and learn a new skill. But philosophy professor Michael Deckard, Ph.D., made bread for a couple of years before everyone jumped in on the craze.

“In addition to meditation, I found baking bread and working with my hands as a way to slow down and focus,” said Deckard, who made his first sourdough starter four years ago. “I haven’t had to buy a loaf of bread in years.”

Once campus reopened and students returned to in-person instruction in fall 2020, Deckard started bringing his latest creations to the classroom. 

“I’ve made rye, wheat, white, mixes of flours; sometimes, I will add sprouts,” he said. “Last semester, I brought in a fig bread with figs from a tree in my yard and also a loaf made with soaked wheatberries.”

His favorite to recreate is bauernbrot, a German farmer’s bread featuring sourdough, rye and all-purpose flour.

A loaf of homemade bread sitting on a cutting board is being cut by a knife

“Dr. Deckard is full of life, ambition and good energy. He often challenges his students to think outside of normative social ideologies and is somehow always able to incorporate philosophy into everyday life,” shared first-year student Fatima Ghaleb. “I was not surprised to learn he bakes his bread since he has shared that he likes to be sustainable as possible.”

Deckard likes to make his bread a little more on the health-conscious side – or as his mother used to say, “to cheat on the sugar” – to which some students are not accustomed.

‘It tastes healthy’ is a response he often hears from those trying slices of his homemade creations for the first time.

“He has brought bread for his class and to me, it tasted wonderful,” Ghaleb shared.

Although his classes are a bit larger this semester, he is still bringing in breads and, on occasion, cookies for his students to sample.

“It is hard to pass out things in class for students to eat with the mask mandates and inclement weather keeping us indoors – so I invite students to drop by during office hours and take a slice,” he shared.

With spring here, Deckard is not only looking forward to taking his classes outside but also trying a new approach to sourcing his flour.

A class sits on benches outside as a professor stands and speaks to them

“I planted a winter crop of wheat in my home garden – so once that grows, my goal is to grind that up to use in some bread – making it so the only thing I will need to purchase is salt,” he said.

As the semester is quickly coming to a close, Deckard shares a piece of advice for students he has learned while on his breadmaking journey.

“Slow down,” he said. “Take a moment and slow down. The world around you is filled with stress and anxiety, and sometimes you’ll have a lot on your plate. So slow down and listen to yourself.”

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