Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Importance of Bread

what my mother refered to as goyishe bread
One of the surprises I received when I first moved to Massachusetts was the bread—the entire state seemed devoid of good bread. (Remember, this was in the 60s.) This was a shock because I had grown up in an area that had dense bagels, chewy rye bread, dark pumpernickle, and crusty French bread. Later, I learned that Brookline had decent bread, but by then I had set up my own personal importation procedure. Every time I went down to New Jersey or New York, I would visit my favorite bakery and return with shopping bags full of bread and other baked goods.

Then I got on a breadmaking kick myself. My husband loved oatmeal bread, for example, so I learned how to make that. I liked whole wheat bread and learned how to make that. The kids liked white bread, so I learned how to make that. We all liked various muffins, and I learned how to make dozens of different types. Soon I was baking most of the breads we ate. About 20 years ago, When Pigs Fly opened up, good bread became available in more locations around me. Gradually, other good bakeries also opened, and I stopped my incessant baking.

I am surprised at how much this all matters to me considering the fact that I'm not a big bread eater. My mother, for example, felt as if she hadn't really eaten if she didn't include bread in any meal. I don't feel that way. Still, when I do eat bread, I want it to be good. To my mind, a slice of crunchy whole wheat toast with chunky peanut butter makes a great breakfast—high in protein, fiber, and taste. Good rye bread is essential to certain sandwiches. And lox and cream cheese just doesn't taste right if it's not on a good bagel (those other bagels were referred to as goyishe, i.e. not Jewish, bagels by my mom, who grew up in an Orthodox household. )

So while I don't  eat a lot of bread, I do accept its importance in the scheme of things. I understand why breaking bread is synonymous with nurturing both body and soul. Whether I'm eating a wrap, or focaccia, or pita or pizza, I want the bread to be more than a vehicle for other ingredients; it needs to be good by itself before I consider it good with anything else.

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