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and i don't mean wonder
by sloan b. bayles
11.6.12
general

I love bread. There, I said it. No, I'm not referring to greenbacks, the Benjamins, et al (although I'm not adverse to that bread either). I'm talking the toast, sandwich, just tear a chunk off the end and nom kind. I love everything about bread. The smell, the texture, the taste...ahh, the taste. Sigh... Sorry, I was having a moment. The aroma that hits you walking in to a bakery when those lovely loaves of goodness are just coming out of the oven is heaven. It reminds me of my grandmothers kitchen, and thinking of my grandmother just gives me warm fuzzies all over. It smells like...comfort. Contentedness. Childhood.

The moment my lips touch the crust of it my mouth is watering in anticipation. Whether it's a loud, crunchy bite of warm toast with butter, or jam, aw hell, how about butter and jam or the soft texture of what helps make the perfect sandwich.

Growing up in San Francisco some of my favorite memories are of walking down Fishermans Wharf and getting a fresh loaf of sourdough bread. Parisian, late bake, extra sour please. Sadly the Parisian Bread Co. is no longer in existence. They were bought out in the 90's by Boudin Bakery which is just as wonderful as Parisian was. Ok, this is where I admit I'm a bread snob. At least a sourdough snob. I'm okay with that. Truth be told, I'm rather proud of it.
And yes, Virginia, there is a definitive taste differential in wannabee sourdough and the real deal. Much debate has been had regarding what gives San Francisco sourdough the unique taste. The water, the weather, the special dance for the bread Gods. I don't know if it's atmospheric conditions or a special dance, nor do I really care. I simply prefer my sourdough be the original S.F. variety. Please and thank you.

While sourdough may be my favorite variety there are other top contenders. Pumpernickel. C'mon, you have to admit it's at least fun to say. Rye bread with some nice corned beef makes a delish reuben sandwich, uh, yum. Challah bread toasted with some buttah. When I'm feeling very childlike I still enjoy cinnamon raisin toast. Focaccia and Ciabatta, Pita and good old Southern cornbread. I'm not all that particular.

While I faintly enjoyed my Great Aunt Edith's Christmas bread growing up, I did tire of the yearly tradition. Every Christmas morning it was served. Every Christmas Eve my mother and grandmother would spend what seemed like hours fiddling with yeast, flour, sugar, etc. Waiting for it to rise, punching it back down (which was my job - wonder if that's where I began my affinity for punching as a child) only to wait for it to rise again after braiding it into a loaf. We stopped making Christmas bread long ago, and now I find myself somewhat nostalgic at Christmas knowing that my Great Aunt's recipe was sadly lost somewhere along the way. Years later I was introduced to Panettone by my stepfather who was very Italian, and from the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn. A new love affair was born.

I'm aware of how bad bread is for you. Gluten filled and calorie filled...bad, bad, bad. It's still my "go to" comfort food, especially peanut butter toast. Make me some and you'll have my heart forever. Besides, bread is one of the fundamental elements of the Eucharist, so how bad is bad? Okay, maybe not a good analogy. Point is there are several food items I could live without if forced to, but bread isn't one of them. Parsnips, I could live without. And pickled beets.

I suppose it's rather silly writing about bread, and I'll actually agree with you. But while you're sitting there rolling your eyes wondering how you're going to get back the 3 minutes of your life wasted reading this I'm going to go make some marble rye toast.


ABOUT SLOAN B. BAYLES

A native Californian still dealing with the culture shock of having lived in Louisiana. I happily escaped to North Carolina. Wife, mother, and corporate world worker bee who is convinced all three of these have lead to my premature gray hair. The only thing I write professionally are honey-do lists.

more about sloan b. bayles

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