January 19, 2016

Seed Bread & Buckwheat Crisps

January 19, 2016
I dreamt about non-urban lifestyle long before we moved to the countryside last year.

When I was a kid, my family had a small island where we spent our summers. There weren’t neighbors, electricity, or running water. Whether it shined or rained, my brother and I splashed in the lake, swimming and playing like a pair of trout. Once a week we made a boat trip to the mainland to buy staple foods from a store on wheels, and then my mother fermented yogurt, viili (Nordic sour curd) and buttermilk which we kept cool in an excavation, dug in the ground. Every July wild blueberries and lingonberries surrounded the cottage, and we munched them directly from the bushes. There was a bigger island nearby to where we rowed to pick bucketfuls of wild strawberries, raspberries, and mushrooms in the end of each summer.

When we reached puberty, my brother and I refused to go to the island. It wasn’t hip, and we couldn’t stay apart from our friends for three months a year. As teenagers, we viewed such a vacation as a punishment and, during our last holiday, I plotted how to flee away after reading a memoir by Henri Charriére, called Papillon, which described his escape from a penal colony in French Guiana.

Seeing our resistance, my parents sold the summer house when my brother was sixteen and I was fifteen years old. It took me three years to realize what a loss it was. That’s when I started to romanticize about country-dwelling.

Last December, after having lived in fairly primitive conditions for eight months, the reality of my rustic life-choice finally hit me. In an early morning, as I was going to the basement to burn wood, I became aware that this is how the rest of my days will look like. The goal of downshifting, gardening, chopping wood and shoveling snow had become a part of my field but, all of a sudden, it appeared so ordinary and even burdensome! For the first time, I saw the cellar wasn’t a sanctuary but a cold and damp dungeon where I sat two hours every dawn, meditating, while poking the fire after every 108th mantra, and while having eight legged spiders crawling on me. The walls and the ceiling I had whitewashed in the spring were already stained with soot. In panic, I wondered if smoke and tar smudged my lungs, too. Will I be able to cope with this much austerity until the end of my life? Was it a mistake to move into this shack?

The novelty of everything wears out.

Although it’s human to misplace the desire for fulfillment in material objects, positions, relationships and achievements, I’m bothered how often I still imagine that I will attain contentment by getting one more piece of chocolate or a pair of shoes; or seeing the Himalayas, changing my worldview, studying a degree, and upgrading my significant other to the latest version of husbandhood (sorry, darling)! Unfortunately it won’t happen because the soul I am underneath the flesh, blood, bones, mind and reason is fully compatible only with spiritual energy. Matter, however mesmerizing it may appear, flows on a different, temporary frequency that will always leave the soul hungry. How much longer will I keep confusing things and situations for happiness?

Happiness is a challenge because it’s a mental disposition – a fluctuating emotion – in which suffering is momentarily absent. Like any state of balance, it flips easily out of equilibrium under the influence of an opposite force. Satisfaction, on the other hand, comes from knowing the self and the soul’s relationship with both, material and spiritual nature. Because it’s a conviction anchored in the core character of the self and the purpose of life, it remains unaffected by external circumstances and time factor. If any, my resolution for 2016 is to shift the focus from becoming happy to being satisfied with what is under my care right now.
Crisp bread is not culinary luxury, like pizza and crêpe that offer instant gratification, but a necessity the Nordic folks have dried and stored for survival since 500 AD. As a poor man’s diet, it reflects a short harvest season and the hardship of winter. To me, it summarizes (when compared to any other bread) the difference between happiness and satisfaction.

Households originally baked thin crisps from wholemeal rye flour, salt and water, and hang them on sticks under the roof. Nowadays various grains and seeds are used. Here are my two gluten-free recipes:

SEED BREAD AND BUCKWHEAT CRISPS (each recipe makes about 15 breads of 20cm / 8”)

Ingredients for the seed bread:
1 Cup (250 ml) sunflower seeds
½ Cup (125 ml) green pumpkin seeds
½ Cup (125 ml) sesame seeds
4 Tbsp flaxseeds
5 Tbsp chia seeds
1 Tbsp fennel seeds
1 Tbsp dry rosemary
1 Tbsp kalonji seeds
1 ½ tsp Himalayan salt
4 Tbsp ghee, oil or melted butter
1 Cup (250 ml) boiling water

Ingredients for the buckwheat bread:
2 ½ Cups (625 ml) buckwheat flour
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1 ½ tsp Himalayan salt
4 Tbsp ghee, oil or melted butter
1 ½ Cup (325 ml) boiling water

For the seed bread, grind rosemary and all the seeds, except kalonji, into fine powder. Add kalonji and salt, and rub in the ghee, oil or melted butter. Finally pour in the boiling water and mix into a smooth paste. Set the dough aside to rest for 10 minutes.

For the buckwheat crisps mix the flour, seeds, salt and ghee, oil or melted butter. Pour in the boiling water and mix into a smooth paste. Set the dough aside to rest for 10 minutes. 

Make lime size balls from the dough and roll them into as thin disks as you can. It’s easier to roll the dough if you place it between two sheets of baking paper. Remove the upper layer afterwards. If you want perfectly round breads, cut them out with the help of a plate or a lid.

Bake the breads at 175 C (345 F) until they are light golden. Because they burn easily, keep the temperature steady. 

You may vary the ratio of seeds as you like, and use spices like jeera or caraway instead of what I've suggested. By adding more ghee, oil or butter, the breads will become richer and crispier. Instead of water, you may use sour cream or milk (they don’t have to be boiling hot).

Thank you.


  1. This is one of the many reasons why I love coming here.....your words and images always calm and what is really important in life comes to focus:) Thank you, Lakshmi.

  2. I had came to the same conclusion last spring, the reason was different (for me it was to much of succes and so much burder I felt with it) but the realisation was the same.
    O son of Kuntī, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.
    I know this Vers since 20 years or longer, it was one of the first I memorised from Bhagavad Gita and it was just teory for me untill this year.
    It seams that I had to get into particular age to start to understand our philosophie... And how suprice I am, that it it soooo universal truth.
    I hope life will be not so hard for you, my Lakśmi and you will enjoy it a little more in your little cottage. I think about you a lot and wish you all the best.
    Love Cintamani

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Cintamani. You are right, knowing something is one thing and realizing it is another. Realization comes through practice.

      Thanks for your well-wishes and concern – don’t worry, I’m not suffering in our little cottage! I just like to question my motives from time to time in order to keep it real.

  3. Ah! I was thinking about similar things as well. Happiness and Contentment are such different things and so easy to confuse. To make matters more complicated, the latter is not as highly regarded today. True contentment comes from within oneself, as you said, with the understanding of one's core values that remain unshaken in face of events and externalities, even unhappiness. On the other hand, it is very difficult to differentiate that true feeling from ignorance or resignation as to an uninitiated onlooker they all look the same.

    Eastern philosophies advocate contentment and seeking one's own version of it. however, cultures and societies have maligned that over time and it is becoming much harder to find it these days. That is my constant struggle as well. As an Indian, I found people substituting being content with lack of initiative and became skeptical of the whole concept. Age and life has taught me the difference but it is still constant work to hold on to the spirit inside :)

    1. So true; satisfaction is less emphasized today. The mindset is to attain everything, including experiences, as fast as possible. Money can buy moments of happiness but, in order to be content, a person has to work within oneself and to develop knowledge about who she is in relation to everything else. Our modern society is fixated with external solutions, even for internal dilemmas.

  4. If there is anything I have learned from my years in this life is that everything is temporary whether it be my misery or my happiness. Everything is transient. And the notion of forever that we are sold doesn't exist. If we all knew this truth we would be more at peace with ourselves. Your shack was beautiful to you yesterday but not today. There is joy in knowing that truth.

    1. Just like a dream, the world is temporary but real. Our body is temporary but real. And, our emotions are temporary but real. The soul, however, is permanent and, when awakened, perceives the nature of everything.

  5. having known only that which my parents needed me to be and losing self before i found self led me to a life of nothingness. i did not know i was but a bonsai molded to serve their needs. i did not know it was nothingness because, in my mind, i thought i was being a kind and honorable child. i grew up and found someone that also needed this strange thing i had become. my soul reaching a point of full break decades later enabled me to realize what was reality vs that which i thought was reality. another decade of putting the pieces back together in a steady march to connect with my spirit taught me that which you speak of above, lakshmi. isn't this analyzing of self and perspective amazing? when i find i am missing the point of it all and am walking closer to my human instead of spirit, the bounce back moment for me is even more soothing and amazing and joyful. i have come to learn this human form we temporarily reside in is such a gift... without such a wrapping, our spirit would never feel this process of misery blooming into truth. my words are never quite as profound and beautiful in structure as your's, but i am right there with you, sister :-) now that this conversation is forever linked to these crisps, how lovely to think the process of making them will be as delicious as the actual feasting of same. God bless ~

  6. Beautifully written. I love the way you've let your emotions speak out honestly. When everything happens for a reason , we still think of so many others as we don't know the reason.You have transported me back to my days in Vivekananda Ashram.

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