The Staff of Life

For many civilizations over hundreds of years, breads of various types have been a staple of diet, “the staff of life.” For as far back as I can remember, my mother baked bread. The whole family loved it. You know there is nothing quite like the aroma of freshly baked bread to start one’s mouth watering. It is especially comforting on a cold winter’s day.

Recently a friend passed on a bread recipe to me. He knew that I had followed my mother’s lead and had been baking bread for all of my adult life. He was right in thinking that I might appreciate the link to a good bread recipe (which I include here). Click on “bread” to view the tutorial on easy ciabatta bread.

In the photo below, you can see the freshly baked ciabatta bread waiting to be sliced by the very old bread slicing machine (also a meat and sausage slicer) that my family brought to Canada in 1953. It wasn’t new even then!

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I tried the bread recipe two days ago and the bread was so good that I made it again yesterday. Notice how the bread has holes in it. This is normal, from the bubbling of the yeast. It’s not a fancy cake-like bread, but more of a rustic bread, very moist on the inside with a crunchy, chewy crust. Delicious!

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But the air holes in the bread, and the fact that the bread was so similar to what my mother baked, brought back a memory I had forgotten about for more than half a century. I was about five years old and my mother had just taken a huge loaf of bread out of the oven. She  cut it in half and set the two parts on the counter to cool.

The steam wafted out of the center of the bread, filling the room with that mouth-watering aroma that most people find irresistible. Being very young, I certainly couldn’t resist it. I waited until my mother’s back was turned and picked a tiny crumb out of the steaming bread.

Oh, it was good! So good, in fact, that I had to have another little nibble. When my mother was busy elsewhere, I stole another little crumb. My mother was very busy that morning and so were my fingers. I thought if I only picked out the tiniest piece of bread no one would know. Unfortunately for me, my five-year-old brain hadn’t been smart enough to spread out the nibbles. I had continued to worry the same little hole in the bread, enlarging it until it was quite noticeable to my mother, but not, at first, to me.

When my father came home for lunch, my mother said to him, “We have a terrible problem. Look what has happened to our bread.”

I think my eyes must have gone wide and I expected a boom to be lowered on my head, but my mother continued talking to my father as if I was wasn’t even there.

“I think we must have a mouse in the house.”

“I seeeeeee…” he said. “Well, I think I have a mouse trap in the workshop.”

“Yes, we’ll have to set it up. I can’t have this happen to my bread. Imagine trying to cut that slice and serving it with a mousehole picked through it.”

I know they exchanged glances and smirks throughout the whole conversation and they must have had a hard time not to laugh at my red face.

I never picked at the bread again, but I will never forget its lovely flavour.

So if you want a taste of this irresistible bread, click on the link and give it a try. It’s very easy to make.

A tip from me: Maybe keep a mouse trap handy.

48 thoughts on “The Staff of Life

  1. Mouth watering at the moment… I remember similar aromas coming from the kitchen in Corner Brook…also the light and dark fruit cakes every December with a dollop of Dad’s scotch dribbled over them. Are you expecting me for lunch?:)

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  2. How sweet, old days are coming back to my mind reading this. When I had to buy bread when I was a little girl I always broke of some pieces of the crust. I was in bad trouble afterwards. But I did it again and again and I still do it. It’s a bad habit and I am not even sorry for it.
    I will try to do the ciabatta bread very soon. Thanks for the recipe!

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  3. I do love ciabatta, and this looks easy enough to make. I’ve got the recipe bookmarked for when I finally am ready to stop counting calories. With warm bread and butter, there would be no stopping me. Maybe I should tape the recipe on the fridge as a bit of encouragement!

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  4. I will certainly try this out…. if you remember from my book I made my own bread on survey trips… nothing like the aroma of freshly baked bread… the elephant at Twisa siding will attest to that…

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  5. This brings back my childhood days as well. It’s a family tradition that I keep, although with the use of a bread machine now. So much easier and faster. With just the 2 of us, I don’t have to make 4 loaves at a time any more. Thanks for the recipe.

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  6. Cute story. That bread doesn’t look too unlike the Italian bread we used to BUY at the Italian bakery in the neighborhood. I sure do miss those. They don’t have them here. Funny, I don’t recall my Italian family ever baking bread, but we sure did have it ever present in the house. I do, however, remember homemade pasta being made with strings of spaghetti hanging from racks set on the counter.
    I totally understand why that mouse was nibbling the bread. I know another mouse who might’ve eaten the entire loaf. 😉

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  7. I think in a lot of places in Europe there are so many good bakeries that modern families don’t have to bother making their own bread, but if you want “old style” bread in most Canadian towns (maybe it’s the same in small-town America), you’d have to go to a European-style bakery (if you were lucky enough to have one in town). Baking my own bread was just easier, and in most cases, my only option if I wanted that kind of bread.

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  8. Your bread looks delicious! I am also a crust nibbler, not so much the middle of the loaf. 😛 I love to slice that first bit off, spread a thin layer of butter on it, and devour it! Mmmmmm. Your story brought a lot of memories back to me, of our mother’s kitchen and all the wonderful treats she used to bake for us. I always wondered where that beautiful slicer ended up. Nice to see it still being used and taken care of. 🙂

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    • The guilt was really hard to deal with. I knew I should ‘fess up, but I was too chicken. I thought that as long as they thought it was a mouse, why should I own up to it, but the guilt is what has kept it in my head all these years.

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  9. I enjoyed this playful story about your nibbling just a crumb, just a little bit, since you were small and not devious, you got found out! this was a great story, Anneli. It is wonderful how our mind goes back, sometimes when our senses are stimulated. I have a brother who makes delicious bread all the time. I especially like one which is a sweet cornbread, which he makes into cubes for stuffing at Thanksgiving. He uses real cranberries, the innards of the turkey, celery and onion…. mmm! You know how to get my mind drifting and yes, the aroma of fresh bread is mouth-watering!

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  10. Pingback: Baking Bread | wordsfromanneli

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