When I was a kid, on a rainy day I used to hurry home from the bus stop after school because I knew my mother would have made soup and a loaf of bread. That wonderful aroma when I opened the front door! I think we all fall back on comfort foods on a gray day..it's the grown-up equivalent of sticking our thumb in our mouth for security. It rained hard and steady all day yesterday, and I made barley and kielbasa soup and a golden loaf of cheese bread. For me, it pushed the clouds and time back and I was in my mother's kitchen again. I started the same tradition for my kids, and I hope they have the same good memories. But then there was the year that it rained and I made bread. It rained the next day, and I made bread. More rain...more bread. I was hiding loaves in the cupboards, the drawers, the fridge...finally the kids told me I had to stop! The first time I tried to bake bread, I was constantly on the phone to my sister. "It says knead until satiny...what the heck does that mean?!" She was very patient and helpful, but I still turned out two bricks that could have been used as door stops or cornerstones for the Parthenon. Not one to be taken down by a recipe, I worked at it until I could make something edible. Rumors to the contrary, I am not stubborn, and I will fight to the death to prove it!
We didn't get our daily bread at the grocery store (and there were no supermarkets) when I was a kid, and Mother didn't bake bread on a regular basis. We went to the bakery once a week. Mother had it timed so that we would get there when the afternoon loaves came out of the oven. The proprietess was a tall, thin, gray-haired woman named Mary, who wore a little paper hat. I know it's hard to believe now, but bread didn't come sliced in those days. You had to ask for it, and Mary would put the bread into the slicing machine for you! Mother always bought two loaves...one sliced, and a warm loaf that we would tear apart and eat on the way home.
I've used making bread as a wonderful way to work off aggression, a way to carry on an aromatic tradition, a way to lift a mundane meal to greater heights, and, in this economy, to save money. If you haven't yet, give it a try!
It's still raining.