On July 24th, adults and children gathered at the Portland Public Library to celebrate Bread Song with a reading by the author and the tasting of bread from many cultures. Author Fred Lipp, his wife Kitty and three grand-daughters were present. Alison Pray, the owner of Standard Baking Company and who sparked the “AHA” moment for Fred when he was writing this book, was also part of the audience.
Lipp began with a discussion about new neighbors and overcoming shyness. He talked about the taking the initiative to talk to someone new because the other person might be too shy to talk to you first. During his time at minister at First Parish, he said he would often meet new people by simply walking the streets of Portland and striking up conversations. Lipp imagined it might be especially true for new arrivals coming from different countries to be shy about speaking in a new language. These thoughts were the inspiration behind the friendship between Alison the baker and young Chamnan in Bread Song.
Lipp then read aloud from his book, acting out Chamnan walking across the street and counting the steps with his grandfather. His energetic reading engaged all members of the audience and kids followed along with copies of the book. After he finished, Lipp shared a secret with the audience. He explained that when he was younger, he too was quiet and rarely spoke because he had difficulty reading and stammered. He remembered what it was like to be shy and the importance of having a friend who reached out and helped him overcome his shyness. “A little bit of Chamnan is in me,” he said.
Following Lipp’s reading, everyone was given a Bread Song matching activity, in which pictures of different kinds of bread had to be matched up with the bakery and country of origin. While it was easy to connect baguettes with Standard Baking and French origins because of the story, others were more tricky. Even some of the adults were stumped!
Attendees were given the chance to sample three different breads from local bakeries all representing three different cultures. Iraqi samoons from Tandoor Bakery, Chinese red bean buns from Bubble Maineia and French baguettes from Standard Baking were available to taste. The red bean buns were most unfamiliar to many, although some had had similar pork filled buns at Chinese restaurants. The samoons were very popular, and several asked where they could find them for purchase.
While they snacked on the breads, people could chat with Lipp and Alison about the book and her bakery. A former South Portland librarian said he was excited to share Bread Song with a Thai family member and her children. Lipp signed copies of his books and then said his good-byes as he and his family were off to lunch at a Thai restaurant to celebrate.