The Rainbow Pride Flag debuted in June of 1978. Designed by Gilbert Baker, it was comprised of eight colors, with each given a specific meaning: Sex, Life, Healing, Sunlight, Nature, Magic/Art, Serenity and Spirit. The flag has since taken on new colors, new meanings and new communities over time. Each new color is a sign of progress in the ever-expanding LGBTQIA+ community.
In June of 1982, another iconic symbol of pride debuted: Me. I was born to the most loving parents who only wanted the best for me, even if that meant the opposite of perhaps what they envisioned for their only son. From the very start of my days, according to my mother, I wanted nothing more than to be in the kitchen. She tells stories about my time spent as a baby on the kitchen counter next to her as she cooked. I would then move onto a chair, then a step-stool, then eventually, the floor. While other boys my age were outside sweating and rolling around in the dirt, I was indoors, also sweating, but rolling out pie crusts instead.
This commitment to culinary pursuits didn’t come without shame on my end. Deep down, I knew that I was meant to be with the other boys, doing “boy” things. I gave it a few solid tries with the boys, but it was always clear to everyone involved that I just didn’t belong. Each attempt left me visibly defeated, and my parents could tell. To lift my spirits, we would preheat the oven and prepare to bake my favorite confection: Rainbow Bread. Sweet, cake-like and decked out in rainbow sprinkles, my mother knew it was the one surefire thing that could bring a smile to my face. And it did every time.
I do not know if my mom or dad was aware at the time of Gilbert Baker and the rainbow pride flag. Or if they were aware that they had a gay child on their hands, gleefully baking the gayest bread in all the land. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely aware of either at the time. As I grew older, it was easy to make the connection between the two. When I came out as gay to my mother, her immediate response was this: “Honey, will you be able to have two men on top of your wedding cake? And what flavor are you thinking it will be?” There she was again, not worried about my sexuality or my gender, but entirely focused on what she knew would matter to me most.
Much like the colors of the pride flag shifting and expanding to take on new meaning over time, I have also shifted and found deeper meaning and community through sharing my recipes and my love of cooking and baking. My rainbow bread recipe has gone from a sign of love and acceptance from my parents to a recipe that has brought joy, acceptance and an opportunity to connect with countless others. I am so honored to share it with you.
- 4 cups flour, plus extra for working
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup sugar
- Sprinkle of cinnamon
- ½ cup shortening or unsalted butter
- 5 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Zest and juice of 1 orange or lemon
- Nonpareil rainbow sprinkles
- Mixing bowl
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Wooden spoon
- Small bowl
- Pastry brush
- Baking sheet
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Sift flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cinnamon into a large bowl. Break up shortening and work into a dry mix with your hands until little pebbles form. Add 4 eggs, vanilla, orange zest and juice. Mix with a wooden spoon, then finish with your hands as needed until dough comes together.
- On a floured surface, knead dough for 10 minutes, until shiny and smooth. Place dough in a lightly floured bowl, cover with a towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
- On a floured surface, cut dough into thirds and roll each third into a long log. Crumple a sheet of parchment paper, then lay it flat on a baking tray. Line logs of dough next to each other on the parchment and wrap them into a braid or other desired form.
- Beat the remaining egg with a tablespoon of water and brush the top of the bread, then gleefully shower with rainbow sprinkles. Bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until puffy and golden brown on the outside.
- If your bread is getting too brown on the outside but the inside is not fully baked, tent bread loosely with foil on top while it finishes baking.
- Let cool completely.
- I love eating a slice of this bread toasted with butter early in the morning with a cup of coffee and a smile on my face.
If you enjoyed this story, read Dan Pelosi’s love letter to marinara sauce!