Of salt and yeast

In a past life I was a franchise of Domino’s Pizza Enterprises Australia.  In fact I’m proud to admit one of the stores I was responsible for set an Australian record for opening week sales.  I even have the T-shirt to prove it!  All that to say, I’ve dabbled in enough pizza to know a bit about their bases and the secrets of great dough.

Some of this came back to me recently as I sat in on some sessions on Jesus’ parables by a mate of mine, Rhys McFaddden.  Talk turned to Jesus admonition to avoid the yeast of the pharisees and his urging followers to be salt.  For me it wound me back to memories of flopped deep pan bases, none more so than when we were trying to make them in drought-ravaged Broken Hill when it’s water supply (Menindee Lakes) was down to 3%.  The town water became so saline that it was undrinkable – petrol stations stopped honouring discount vouchers and instead gave out casks of spring water with purchases. 

In the shop we had to start using cask water in the pizza bases too, because the saline content in the tap water was killing off the yeast in the dough mix and we couldn’t get any bases to rise. 

A couple of observations on Jesus’ juxtaposition of salt and yeast.  First, Jesus warned about the yeast of the Pharisees AND the Herodians. By lumping the debauched Herod and his merry men in that group, it’s difficult to think that the yeast He was referring to was therefore pursuing systems of personal piety at the exclusion of God.

Could it have been the yeast of the Pharisees and Herodians was more likely their abuse of power and their rapacious abuse of their fellow-man and the environment (sound like the West)? Check out Rick Perry’s political adverts and his promises of a return to strength and power, and his vow to stop Obama’s “war on religion” (as if Jesus was ever about religion).

Then there’s the matter of us being called to be the salt of the earth. My experiments in drought pizzas quickly confirmed that a good dose of salt does more than just enhance flavour.  If there’s enough of it, it will kill the yeast.  Salt doesn’t serve any purpose lumped in piles. It does its work when it is worked through the entirety of the batch of dough (or the meat if you’re into biltong). And when it is adequately worked through it will kill the yeast.

Was Jesus’ use of yeast and salt accidental? I’m told he’s a pretty good botanist.


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