L’Otto di Merano and Innocence

when god decided to invent
everything he took one
breath bigger than a circustent
and everything began

when man determined to destroy
himself he picked the was
of shall and finding only why
smashed it into because
– e. e. cummings

Last night, I watched the 1979 film Being There alongside our Calvary film club, and my mind is still tumbling over the details of the extraordinary story. Peter Sellers plays a naïve, Forrest Gump-ish lovable protagonist, a humble gardener, who, upon the death of his master, is cast out of the garden he had tended in simplicity for fifty-odd years. His education is only that which he has seen on television. He is bewildered by modern society and all its inventions, yet he proceeds through all of his chance interactions with a fool’s confidence, which most mistake for wisdom.

This film speaks to the power of innocence, perhaps a morally complex construct, OR, a gift from God most every human finds a way to unknowingly destroy—only to pine for when recognized in a heart-breaking, dear character like Chance the Gardener, who with “rice pudding between his ears” becomes an unlikely prophet for the fallen world. Chance breaks all the rules the world made for itself because he is innocent, or ignorant, of them. In the final scene, he walks across a lake of water, and I think it is his absence of curiosity, the irritable reaching after fact and reason, that keeps him afloat. I must re-read Dostoyevski’s The Idiot. Or any Shakespeare play with a Fool. It is not a coincidence that great literature, the Bible greatest of all, chooses to convey its wisdom through the characters most unlikely to speak it.

“As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.”                                     -Chance the Gardener


L’Otto di Merano

Adapted from The Italian Baker


1 cup sourdough starter

1 tbsp malt syrup

1 ½ cups warm water

Scant cup rye

¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Stir together  starter, malt syrup and water and dissolve together. Then add flours and stir until combined. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise until bubbly, three hours.


2 tablespoons olive oil

About 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 tsp salt

1 ¼ tsp caraway seeds

Stir oil into the sponge. Combine flour, salt, and caraway seeds and mix one cup at a time into the sponge. Mix and then knead on a floured surface for 3 to 4 minutes. Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, 2 hours for first rise.

Shaping and Second Rise. Cut the dough in half on a floured surface and with each piece, shape into a boule. On a piece of parchment paper on a peel, place the loaves next to each other, so that they look like two cells dividing.

Mitosis bread: Image

This apparently also looks like an infinity, or a sideways number eight—and that’s where the name “Otto” comes from. Bake at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow. Cool on a rack.

I could go on and on about how great this infinity bread tasted.  But perhaps that would be to chase after the was of shall.

6 thoughts on “L’Otto di Merano and Innocence

  1. Brilliant…saw Being There the year it came out, as I am a long time Sellers devotee. Loved it…especially having seen Sellers other side in Dr. Strangelove, etc. The innocence of a little 3 year old friend, Grace, just told me, “Mama put a picture of me on the oven door when she makes cookies!” . Her reflection in the oven window opened a door to the love in the room…precious. Thanks for pointing me towards these innocent moments.

  2. I’m not much of a movie buff, but you certainly piqued my curiosity with this one.
    I love your thoughts, your recipes and your dog!

  3. Rach, thanks for sharing your beautiful thoughts on this film. It sounds absolutely wonderful, and I love your wise reflections on the importance and goodness of innocence, a quality that is so often discounted or disparaged in our culture.

    On another note, you and KP are certainly getting the full-on Minnesota winter experience! I have been thinking of you two and Izzy frequently, as Rochester has been mentioned quite a few times in MPR coverage of this latest exciting winter weather event. Keep your chin up, and keep baking bread, one of the best winter warming strategies of course! 🙂

    1. Aw, thanks Susan. It’s not so bad– KP had today off school which coincided with my day off and we holed up at the movie theater for a double feature of Philomena and 12 Years a Slave. Only a foot of snow when we finally emerged back into the tundra!

      1. A perfect snow day! You two are pros at this 🙂 More excellent (according to stories I’ve heard about them) films, and I hope you enjoyed – I’m not sure if thats the right word for these particular films – perhaps were enlightened by? – both. You all take care, and have a lovely rest of this snowy season!

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