by Ken Rosenberg
First-year M.A. student Ryan Persons has not wasted any time in adding to our department’s social texture. If you’re free for just a few minutes on Tuesday mornings, stop by the grad lounge for some bread – with spreads. From the modest beginnings of an impromptu gathering, Ryan has forged Bread Day Tuesdays. Each Monday night, he brings out the bread maker and bakes a loaf of deliciousness. Appropriate spreads in hand, he enters the lounge with a smile on his face to break bread with his colleagues.
Ryan has always associated good sociability with food. “I remember, as a kid,” Ryan said, “spending time at my grandmother’s house. She would make flatbread and I would sit up there in the kitchen and pester her, and eat meat pies and other Lebanese foods. We found that the bread we made tended to be of higher quality. When I came here, I just brought the bread maker with me. My parents weren’t using it as often. It was just taking up space. I wasn’t sure I was going to use it, until I tried my very first store-bought loaf of bread that I picked up from a gas station, on a whim … it was awful.” Ryan swore to never purchase bread as long as he’s in Bloomington; he hasn’t, and he won’t. “I make my own,” he proclaimed.
Since moving to Bloomington, Ryan has now tried almost half a dozen recipes: white, honey oat sunflower, whole wheat, apple walnut, and Italian herb. “I like to try and make something new every week, if I can,” he said. For now, the most popular one so far seems to be the apple walnut bread – but, since Ryan has only begun to bake a dent into his book of over 20 recipes, each subsequent week could offer the next favorite. Next up: potato bread.
Why an event? “I’ve always been really generous when it comes to food,” Ryan said. “Food has always been a really important part of my family, as is the case with most Middle Eastern families.” Spending hours a day to cook a meal is not commonplace in America, but Ryan’s cultural heritage allows him to appreciate cooking as a ritualistic practice for the bonding it affords – and, of course, the tastes it can provide. “I just enjoy the process of sharing, and it makes me happy to brighten up people’s day a little bit with something as simple as a loaf of bread.”
Why Tuesday? “Well, that was a bit random,” Ryan said. Tinkering with the machine over a weekend, he brought some bread to the class of his AI assignment, T101 – and then up to the grad lounge, where even more colleagues partook in the loaves of friendship.
Ryan’s mother is third-generation Lebanese-American, so he knows: “Anytime you get more than four Lebanese people in the same room, you’re going to get a massive feast.”Potluck style, each family brings a dish they are best known for. In the case of our Telecom family, make sure you ask Ryan to bring the bread to your next gathering.
“The beginning of the week is often very hard for people, and I think that it’s a nice way to interpose a fun break, to brighten up everyone’s day a little bit,” Ryan said. “We get people together in the same room, bring in some tasty foods, some spreads, and we just put our work out of our minds. The bread is nice, but it’s really just a medium for socializing with people that, maybe, you don’t often get to.”
[credit to our resident satirist, Edo Steinberg, for the title of this article]