Saturday, June 03, 2006

Confessions of a Bread Squoosher

Weekends, I've discovered in my now enormous experience of a few months blogging, are in my opinion set-aside times for writing on totally non-related subjects, preferably completely trivial, that will in all likelihood be of little or no interest to anyone reading. That, I believe, is called a disclaimer.

My mother was a bread goddess. She didn't just make her own bread, she made her own whole-wheat bread. She made her whole-wheat, home ground in her very own mill, baked in recycled V-8 juice cans bread. That is bread commitment.

Grinding the wheat was great because the whole mill vibrates like crazy and makes your teeth buzz if you put your hands on the sides while it's going. Plus there's a metal plate with a hole in it that you pour the wheat on, and the kernels dance around like crazy so they look like they're doing a mad celebratory Mamba of Death as they shimmy towards destruction. And the flour at the end is soft and warm and begs to have fingers dug into it.

My mother made what seemed like dozens of loaves at a time so the amount of dough was monstrous, and very very tempting. Dough is like clay at school only you actually can eat it without getting blue between your teeth and demonstrating to the entire class that you're a freak clay-eater. (I never did. I swear.) Of course if you eat raw dough it rises in your stomach and after an hour what was a fill-you-up amount becomes a blow-out-your-ears amount and you belch yeast for the rest of the day. I never managed to remember that part.

My sister and I were given lumps of dough of our own to keep us out of the way. She would knead hers and pat it nicely and tuck it down in her little loaf pan to rise and doze into perfect bread happiness. I carried mine around, tore off bits to eat, thumped it, smashed it. stretched it into ropes and coils and wads of bread-dough turd, then smashed the whole grey mess into a small, dense blob at the bottom of my pan where, with the life beaten out of it, it refused to rise at all and baked into something too tough to bite into.

By the end of the afternoon the whole house smelled wonderfully of fresh bread, and we drooled outside the oven waiting for the first loaf to come out so we could have too-hot-to-hold hunks dripping with butter.

That was the good part. The bad part was being the only kid in school who brought in solid, round, whole wheat sandwiches with organic peanut-butter and partially crystallized honey.

In my mind there was nothing more desirable than real bread - white bread. The kind with the unconvincing yellow crust that came in a polka-dotted bag and smashed into pulp when you spread jam on it. When I grew up, I swore, I would have white bread every day. And CoolWhip. Not with the bread, just Cool Whip in a plastic tub. Come to think of it, it was a pretty pale food plan.

I like to think I compromise. I do make my own bread - but I don't grind my wheat, and the loaves are either free-form, or baked in a boring old loaf pan. But I do buy in-a-bag cheap bread (three kids = many many many pbj's and a LOT of bread). And I like to take two pieces, cut off the crusts, and squoosh the inner bit into a small, dense wad.

Blame it on the baking.

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