This past week has seen an historic change in the world. Aside from all the newsworthy drama related to the transfer of power and revolution in Egypt, a country I visited just three months ago, one thought kept coming to my mind about it: this is the first time in, perhaps, 7,000 years that the people of Egypt have not had a "Pharaoh" ruling them. Maybe the word Pharaoh hasn't always been used, but that's just a placeholder for King, Caesar, Emperor, Sultan, or Dictator. This isn't just a change in leadership, but a change in how leadership will now be done (assuming that the military honors its promise to hold elections soon and turn over the power--a big if, as we know). We've had two hundred years of elected leadership in the USA and that seems like along time; imagine changing to that kind of system after 7,000 years of one variation or another of only Royal, Imperial leadership. It's earth shattering!
I bring this up not because I want to write a political commentary; this is, after all, Pizza Quest, not CNN or Fox News or even The Huffington Post. But Egypt is also the civilization that gets credit
in the baking world for "inventing" leavened bread, a subject dear to my heart. It may very well be the place, as has been argued, where pizza, in some form, was first made. It's the place where Moses lived, where unleavened bread triumphed over leavened bread during the great escape of the Hebrews from captivity (and yet still the Pharaohs ruled for thousands of years after, until this very moment). We live in extraordinary times, historic times, of perhaps Biblical proportions.
My connection to all of this history-making drama, as it may be for many of you, exists on many levels (and I believe, as Dante articulated it, that all things exist on four levels: the literal, the poetic/metaphorical; the philosophical; and the mystical). For me the connection is partly through my baking; but also through my religious and cultural history; and more immediately, through travel -- on my recent trip I spent a night in the Egyptian desert at the foot of Mt. Sinai (also known as Mt. Horeb), where Moses is reputed to have received the Ten Commandments and also where he encountered the Burning Bush and heard the words, I Am that I Am. It is where our Egyptian tour guide, a government employee, unknowingly foreshadowed recent events when he confessed to us, when the "required" soldier escort had temporarily stepped off the bus, "I love my country and am proud of who we are and all that has occurred here throughout history, but I am also ashamed of how filthy it is and and how, with all we have to offer, we can't even provide clean drinking water to visitors. It is a scandal and a disgrace. We must find a way to get ourselves together." Little did we know.
We connect to things and to places in different ways, sometimes emotionally and sometimes intellectually; often times it is through our palate and taste memories (this is probably especially true for readers of Pizza Quest). There are times in the creation of PizzaQuest.com when the focus is clearly on pizza, but there are also times when the focus should be, must be, on the Quest in its greater meaning. This past week has been, for me, one of those times. I just want to recognize that this is one of those rare and precious moments when all four of Dante's levels have converged.