Thursday, November 6, 2008

Bread Making

Bread. I made my first loaf of bread back in 1960 something as a ten year old. I was having real problems with the new math introduced in school then and one morning before school, I noticed a recipe for Oatmeal Bread on the side of a cereal box. Ok. I can do that. Previously, I'd been puzzled by my mother's bread-making ways and was distressed with the new math so....I cut the recipe out and made the loaf of Oatmeal Bread. It turned out perfectly.
Well, ta ta ta...and I did it without any math. Okay, I'll give you that I must have measured stuff. But even that was a feat of sorts, since my mother never owned measuring cups or spoons. Really. She had a four-cup glass measure and that was it. I noticed that my dad was delighted with the bread and my mother a little bit sniffy. Then I noticed some time after, that the Oatmeal Bread recipe was gone! I searched through the junk drawer where my mother inexplicably kept her recipe book and I searched every cereal box that came into the house after that, and I asked my mother who just shrugged. I never found that recipe again.
Bread making in our house was done in a large enamel washtub...not wash pan...tub. You could comfortably fit two chubby toddlers into it and maybe their dog...depending on Rover's size. My mother made bread by dozens of loaves and without a recipe as far as I could tell. She used one pound cakes of yeast kept in the fridge and to which I became addicted. Hungry? Scarf some yeast. To this day I miss that stuff. GG brought me some once from the farmer's market...nothing at all the same.
Anyhow, some prissy neighbour girls were sent over by their father to learn how to make bread from my mother. Their mother knitted but didn't make bread. My mother did both. I failed the knitting thing except for mile long, knit 2, purl 2 scarves. I had conquered sewing by destroying my mother's stash and was determined to conquer bread and am happy to report, think I finally did. I suspect those prissy girls were as flummoxed as I, with my mother's bread-making ways. A few years back I ran into one of them in the grocery store and she had store-bought bread in her cart.
Learning to make bread from my mother equaled my day in the kitchen with GG's Oma learning to make Zwiebach. "No eggs?...oh, no butter?...oh, no matter...wrong size teacup? matter." I nearly tipped over when GG's Oma actually asked me for a teacup not a measuring cup. I'd thought my mother was just being her English slapdashy self. Bread making or decorating, none of it very much matched nor did it seem to very much matter. But GG's Oma was not an English slapdashy eccentric, yet her attitude to bread making was exactly the same.
Not until after several years of bread, fit only for the toaster or bird feeder and that, which thieves wouldn't even steal, did I finally clue into bread-making. GG brought home a library video from some Pumpkin Hollow folks on bread-making. While nursing babies during the night, I watched it and learned you really don't need a recipe...mostly...usually...kinda. Ingredients are quite interchangeable. Bread making is by feel, but don't let that scare you. And when your sister-in-law calls with the latest gossip, in the middle of bread making, leave the bread, go sit down and catch up. The bread will wait.
When GG and I were first married, we lived in a row of townhouses sharing a common front yard. I baked bread and bless his heart, he actually ate some while we sat outside barbequing our supper. On my way out the door the next morning, I noticed, "Oh, I forgot to bring in the bread." We didn't notice the barbeque gone until a week later when looking for it to BBQ Sunday lunch for some Sabbatarians. Over their protestations that a sandwich would be sufficient, I think we ended up going out for lunch. Never mind the state of my soul. They clearly did not understand the state of my bread at the time.

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