Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Fresh Bread and the House Mouse



My Mom. World's Best Bread Maker

I love bread.
Freshly baked or cooled. Whole Wheat. White. Multi-grain. Potato. Sourdough. Soda. Banana. Rye. Leavened. Unleavened.
Have I mentioned that I love bread?
I could have lived on it.
Fortunately, my Mom made the best bread on the planet.
And I knew this how . . .?
Okay, the best bread in my four-year-old world.
Twice a week, Mom would drag out her large, white ceramic bowl and start adding the magical ingredients. She would add, then stir. Add, then stir. I especially loved it when she would make potato bread because it was so much fun watching her force the cooked, cooled potatoes through the colander.
Finally, the best part, when the mixture had turned into a ball of dough.
Then, Mom would punch and turn. Punch and turn.
And she would always give me a little piece to play with.
Dutifully, I would wash my hands, then reach, with eager fingers, for my piece.
I probably should mention that my little white ball of dough usually changed quite quickly to a little grey ball of dough. Obviously, four-year-old hand washing left much to be desired. And Mom must have noticed, because my tiny, little loaf never went into the oven . . .
In no time, six huge, beautifully golden-brown, perfectly shaped loaves emerged magically from the oven. And took their place of honour on the cupboard to cool.
And they smelled like Heaven.
And I knew that how . . .?
Alright. Alright. They smelled like my four-year-old version of Heaven.
Sigh.
And they were just asking to be sliced and eaten with some freshly-churned butter.
Impatiently, I would follow my Mom around the kitchen, begging for a piece.
Now. While it was still warm.
And always, she would say, patiently, “In a minute, Diane. They have to cool a bit so they don't make you sick.”
Mom had told me many times about the little boy who had eaten a whole loaf of hot bread and who had to go to the hospital because the bread turned to a hard lump in his stomach.
And I believed her.
I did.
My stomach didn't, though, and it had to be re-convinced every time.
“But Mom . . .”
Finally, she would sigh and relent, grabbing the big bread knife and carefully cutting through the crusty outside and into the wondrous middle.
Soon, I was sitting at the big kitchen table, happily munching my way through a large slice of fresh bread and butter.
This had to be done right.
I had tried on numerous occasions, to convince my Mom that crusts were simply to keep the yummy centre from drying out. But she had a thing about 'wasting food'. So, the crust was removed and quickly eaten, to get it out of the way. Then I could eagerly dive into the best part. The wonderfully soft centre.
It isn't possible to be happier.
I would lick my fingers carefully and then stab at any crumbs that might have fallen, collecting them on one fingertip. More licking.
When I had eaten everything possible, I would get to my feet and start following my Mom around the kitchen again.
“Mo-om . . .”
The most I ever conned her out of were two pieces.
Even if I didn't believe the 'little boy' story, Mom did.
But I outsmarted her. Sort of.
One afternoon, Mom had given my siblings and I our quota of fresh bread.
Then she, and they, all headed for the garden.
I was alone in the kitchen. With half a loaf of fresh bread.
My day had come.
I should probably point out, here, that I had tried, on numerous occasions, to slice fresh bread properly.
Each attempt was a dismal failure.
I would start out all right, then the knife would turn one way or the other and I would end up, not with a slice, but a wedge.
Which still tasted fine, just looked funny.
And made my Mom mad . . .
So, slicing was out.
I glanced around. The coast was still clear.
How could I get that yummy bread from the cupboard into me?
I reached up and touched the soft, white centre. Pressed it, slightly.
Watched it spring back so invitingly.
I pinched at it and managed to pull off a small piece.
Hmmm.
I stuck it into my mouth.
Good.
I pinched off another piece. Bigger this time.
Better.
I dug at the loaf.
A really big piece.
Perfect.
And, quite suddenly, I realized that all I needed to get at the wonderful, soft, white interior, was two little hands.
And ten handy little fingers.
Which I just happened to bring along with me.
In the next few minutes, I scooped out every crumb of soft, white goodness, leaving just the outside, crusty shell.
Okay. Now. How to hide the evidence.
I stared at the shell of a loaf. Huh. Maybe if I just turn it.
I flipped it over on its face.
Perfect!
Mom will never know!
Have I mentioned that Mom always . . .
Okay, I'll move on . . .
The first thing Mom did when she came into the kitchen was tip the loaf back up.
Rats.
Moms do those things. What's with that?
“What happened here?”
I stared at her mutely. How could I get out of this one . . .?
“It looks like we have a little mouse.”
Genius! Why didn't I think of that? I smiled and nodded. Yep. Mouse. Moms are so smart.
“Diane. Don't eat all the bread.”
I stared at her. What about the mouse?
She put her hand on my head. “It's not good for you to eat so much bread, Honey.”
Oh, yeah. The hospital thing.
“Promise me you won't do it again.”
I nodded, my eyes on the bread-shell on the cupboard.
“Good girl.”
I didn't get sick, like the little boy. But I also didn't ever dig at a loaf of bread again. I learned to eat the whole thing a slice at a time. By cutting it with a knife.
Like civilized people.
But there is a codicil . . .
Years later, after I married, I discovered that my husband came from a family of bread-lovers, just like me. Except that his family had fought, not for the soft, yummy centre, but for the crusty outside of his Mother's delicious bread.
Often, if one end crust had been taken, the other was cut off. If both ends were gone, the next logical choice was the top. Then the bottom.. Then the sides.
It wasn't unusual for my Mother-in-law to find a bread centre, lying naked on the cutting board.
Why couldn't I have been raised in that family?
Everyone would have been happy.

10 comments:

  1. I laughed when I got to the the ending of your story.......because as you described your desire for the soft white center, I was saying outloud....."No! The crust is the best part!" HAh ha. ; )

    Boy this, story of your's, sure takes me back to after- school memories. My mom worked long hours as a nurse, but always managed to have fresh home made bread ready for us to find left under clean white T-towels on the counter when we would get home off the bus. The house was empty, but we always knew she was thinking of us. There was plenty of honey butter to spread on thick. Yum.

    Amazing how food can bring back the memories.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nothing says, "I love you!" like fresh bread - with or without mom standing there!!!

      Delete
  2. I remember the crusts on either end being the best thing ever! But not the top sides or bottom, they had to stay on the slice. To be enjoyed after eating the middle of the slice and getting jam all over our cheeks in the process.
    Them sliced bread became available and it was more convenient, sure, but never the same as a whole uncut loaf.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's just something about seeing that intact loaf - ready to be sliced as per the slicer's whim. Yumm!!

      Delete
  3. Well now you are a match made in bread heaven lol. Wasn't that worth waiting a few years for?

    ReplyDelete
  4. What a wonderful ending! Still smiling here!

    We are crust people. The ends are coveted by all :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Another codicil:

    I vaguely remember, deep in the dark recesses of my fading mind, those glorious days when my Beloved would make home-made bread, just so that her crust-starved husby could enjoy the delectable smells and tastes of fresh bread and butter. Sometimes with a dab or two of honey. Ahh, the good old days. Long past. One wishes they would return . . . . but oohhh, so long ago . . .

    Anonymous Crust-loving Husby Figure

    ReplyDelete

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