Have you watched the Breadface videos? By now, the New York Times has written about the anonymous carbophile behind them, and people seem quite taken with her work, which consists of footage of a woman rubbing her face all over various breads. She's breadfaced cornbread, tortillas, Martin's potato rolls, and slices of Wonder Bread (her favorite); along the way, she's amassed 36,000 Instagram followers. And if you're wondering what it all means — Why did she start? Is it performance art? What is she trying to tell us? — stop. In several interviews, the breadfacer has explained that there's no big reason; she just put her face in bread one day last summer and has been doing it ever since. It's just a thing she likes to do.
I've watched all 23 of her videos and am impressed at how satisfied she looks with this simple pleasure. I wanted to understand the experience behind her look of bliss, and to find out whether, if I tried it, breadfacing would bring me the same bliss. Would I derive sexual pleasure from it? Would it be a non-caloric way to enjoy food? Could it offer the simple joy of doing something weird just for me, like using Q-tips while watching Top Chef?
Which is how I found myself in the checkout line of Fairway Market, my handbasket teeming with bread products, Listerine, and a container of gummy bears. The Listerine because I needed some, and the gummy bears because I didn't want the cashier to think I was weird.
When I got home, I went through a nice little ritual, similar to the one Breadface performs in her videos. I set the lights, and I arranged my first target — mini croissants — in a grid on my kitchen counter. I pulled my hair back and I mashed my face into each buttery mini-croissant, one at a time. I pressed my cheeks, my chin, my nose into each individual croissant, feeling the butter slick, smelling the butter, resisting the urge to pick one up with my teeth like a pie-eating contestant so I could taste the butter. Weird, I appraised the experience — but captivating enough for me to try different breads. Next, I rubbed two slices of brioche around my face like they were hand towels. I didn't really enjoy that. Brioche is very crumb-y. Then, I dropped my face into a sturdy "triathlon loaf" that the baker told me was full of seeds, banana chips, and carrots. I rolled around for a bit, feeling the chewy crust crack against my face, the banana chips stab me in the cheek, the seeds press into my flesh. Triathlon breadfacing sort of sucked.
Truthfully, I didn't understand Breadface's love of breadfacing until the Wonder Bread. I put the whole loaf out and let my face flop into it like it was my pillow. It compressed immediately into a squishy little face-mattress. I rested my forehead there for a while and felt something like — inner peace? Ecstasy? I don't know, but it was sort of like I had on a La Mer face mask while eating an entire baguette by myself. But I must have been on a higher plane because I had a vision: I was in a grain silo. Nearby, a woman with strong hands ground ancient grains, while a child sat at her feet mixing the meal with water to make patties. I could smell the scent of all the breads ever made and eaten. The woman and child looked up at me and spoke in a foreign tongue that I didn't know I could understand; their words all sounded like Mark Bittman, Mark Bittman. "Eat carbs," they told me. "Bread's awesome."