A dozen years ago, Martin Philip was living in New York, working at a bank, making good money but feeling unfulfilled and disconnected. An increasingly serious home baker, he applied for a job at Vermont-based King Arthur Flour Co. After several rejections, Philip was finally hired; he and his wife packed up their family and moved to the Green Mountain State.
In “Breaking Bread: A Baker’s Journey Home in 75 Recipes,” Philip describes his love of the “daily discipline” and traditional craft of baking, and his almost spiritual connection to breadmaking. “It became,” he said, “something I couldn’t stop thinking about or working at or feeding my family with.”
Among the recipes are Philip’s ancestral family staples — butter biscuits, his grandmother’s molasses pie — but also focaccia, bagels, and brioche. Trying new things is central to his craft. “I’m drawn to that place where you’re learning something new,” he said. “Anything that we are connected to has a learning curve that’s as long as a life.’’
An Arkansas native, Philip didn’t expect to write a book about bread, family, and life. But he found he loved that work as well, going two days a week to the quiet poetry room of a local public library to “carve out a space for myself, and get some words down.” Like baking, writing requires structure and discipline, but also invites creativity. Philip says he’s happiest “when I’m making something.”
Philip’s daily life includes three active children and a wife who was diagnosed with cancer while he was writing the book (she is now healthy). It’s “a bit of a scrum,” he said, with various family members running, rock climbing, and making music (“a very central passion” for Philip and his wife, who met as students at Oberlin). “I got really lucky,” he said of his marriage and children. “It’s the best thing I’ve done.”
Philip will read at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17, at Newtonville Books, 10 Langley Road, Newton Centre.
Kate Tuttle, president of the National Book Critics Circle, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.