Wednesday, November 23, 2005

End crust. Call it what you want: the loaf bookends, the wheat rind, the flour film, etc. Whatever you call it, I'm referring to the very ends of your loaf of bread. Growing up as a child, I remember never eating the ends of a loaf of bread in our household as it served three purposes: (1) insulation from staleness for the rest of the loaf; (2) fish and chipmunk food during the summer months at the lake and (3) the final sandwich of the loaf of bread, reserved for my father.

And you, my friend? What are/have been the purposes of your loaf's end crusts? Haven't thought much about it? Don't worry, not many people have. The end crusts hold very little importance in life, so much so that you will never be served an end crust piece of toast at a restaurant. In fact, the end crust is referred to simply as that and not as a piece of bread or toast. All the while end crusts are being thrown away, consider this:

In 2002, researchers in Germany discovered that the crust is a rich source of antioxidants and may provide a much stronger health benefit than the rest of the bread. Although previous studies have suggested that bread contains compounds that have a cancer-fighting potential, much focus has been placed on its abundance of dietary fiber, which is believed by some to help prevent colon cancer. The current study is the first to identify a cancer-fighting compound that is concentrated in the crust, says Thomas Hofmann, Ph.D., lead researcher for the study and formerly with the German Research Center of Food Chemistry in Garching, Germany.

The very first moments of your morning and the very last few moments of your evening. These are the end crusts of your loaf, your daily life. For many of us, they serve as milemarkers on the beginning and ending of our daily journey; the manner in which we insulate our daily events (each individual slice) from the staleness of a constant and hurried pace. It is these first and final moments each day that give our daily journey conception and closure. It is these first and final moments each day that can feed us, nourish us, make us stronger for the life journey that waits ahead of us. And it is these first and final moments each day that be a completely unique adventure rather than just a simple capstone.

Your journey and mission today, my friend, is just too important and too vital for you to rush into your day and then rush into your bed. Believe it when I say that there is a unique purpose and mission for you and your life that no one else can accomplish, and there are too many distractions and obstacles each day that can thwart that purpose and mission.

I ask you and implore you to remind yourself (and email me a reminder) from time to time, "How are my end crusts? And how am I using them?" Use these few moments on either end of your day to actively pray, reflect, give thanks, seek solace, relax, rejuvenate - all away from the noise of your daily life. You owe it to yourself, your family, your friends... your world. Use these few moments on either end of your day to keep the rest of your day fresh - asking for patience and kindness in the morning and asking for forgiveness at night. This may very well be the best sandwich of your entire loaf today.

Post Note: The Smucker's Company came out with a new creation a few years ago, called an Uncrustable. It's a manufactured peanut butter and jelly sandwich WITHOUT the crust. The bread ends are crimped together, sealing in the peanut butter and jelly. It's a fine idea, but personally, the whole point of experiencing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is (1) the jelly leaking out the side and into your lap, (2) folding the sandwich in half, biting it and peeking through the hole in the middle and (3) the almighty remnants of crust left behind... now remedied by the revolutionary Uncrustable.