Bread is Love
Bread is a gift of love. It’s personal.
Mother made bread and I always think of her when I make it. She said that making bread was good for getting out your frustrations. Sometimes she pounded that dough for a long time. She probably made more bread when we were teenagers. It was one way she showed us that she loved us when she might not have liked us as much.
I often made bread when I was a young mother. I, too, kneaded a little more than necessary.
Bread machines were very popular in the early 1990’s. I got one but I never liked the bread; it isn’t very special when a machine does it and you don’t get to knead. It lacked the love that goes with cradling the dough and coercing it to do what you want. The bread machine went to Goodwill and my bread tastes much better. I think it is the love.
When you make homemade bread, it doesn’t really matter what else you serve with the meal – if it even lasts until mealtime - because the bread is the prize. Bread and soup. Bread and salad. Bread and vegetables. It’s all wonderful.
Today I was nostalgic when I baked 6 loaves of bread. I turned on Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring, because Mother always loved that music and said it was Grandmother’s favorite, especially the Simple Gifts part. It is good background music for bread baking. I use a recipe in The Joy of Cooking (Mother's copy).
I set out the carved wooden figurine of an old bread woman that Mother gave me because it reminded her of her mother, who was plain and dressed a little like this gnarly old woman. I can’t bear to part with it because Mother told me that story. I do not like the figurine but how can I throw my Grandmother in the Goodwill bin? So she lives in a drawer and emerges when I bake bread, with love.
Because I was baking the bread as a gift for the family of someone who passed away, every loaf was made with extra love and I hope that they felt love and warmth when they had their meal.
I made an extra loaf of brioche today, because one always comes out too wonky to give away. This one looked ok so I gave it to a friend who has been very kind to me. I liked sharing a warm and delicious gift of love and knowing that she and her husband will toast it for their breakfast.
In her last months, Mother lived with me, and I baked bread often. Some days I baked it just for the kneading time. It could be challenging to live with a 92-year-old woman who didn’t always know who I was. But she knew the smell of bread and she loved to eat it. One day she said, “Do I smell bread baking?” When I said “yes,” she continued, “Mama always said it was a sin to cut hot bread. So, when her bread was coming out of the oven, I’d go down the street and ask my friend, ‘do you want to come up to my house and sin?’” Mother was funny like that. Baking bread was one way I could show her I loved her, even if she didn’t always know I was her daughter.
My house still smells of the loaves I baked today, even though they were delivered to the grieving family several hours ago. Bread is love and its scent lingers.