While I don’t believe a bit of it, I do like the stories that religions tell us. For example, I had no idea before this morning that September 14th is the day on which the Greek Orthodox church celebrates the discovery of the true cross. And what does that have to do with bread? It’s all down to the royal herb basil.

Aglaia – of Aglaia’s table – explained all in a recent blogpost. It was basil that indicated to St Helena and her son Constantine which among many was the true cross. And it is basil, according to Aglaia and her late mother-in-law, that makes bread rise.

Greek women believe that bread rises by divine intervention. If you tell them that a batter of flour and water will ferment from the various airborne microorganisms if left for a few days, they refuse to believe it. They are certain that only the direct power of God can turn a mere flour batter into a leavening medium. This is the reason why prozymi –the natural sourdough starter used in traditional baking– is usually made on September 14, or near the end of Holy Week, preceding Easter.

Aglaia experimented with different flowers in her flour and water. Some did make a difference, but not basil. Which matters not a bit.

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