Saturday, January 22, 2011
I'm not a fan of crust. I even used to eat my pizza slices backwards to get the crust over with until I caught people watching me in college and I hate people watching me even more than I hate crust. So I flipped my pizza back around. And now I either give the pizza crust to the dogs or the chickens (this is one of my favorite things about being a grownup, eating basically what I want. Amazingly, I often want spinach.) But Italian bread, French baguettes, crusty rolls - clue me in, what's so great about a hard shell? M knows my discontent of crust. That became clear last weekend at the local pub when we escaped the children in a rare moment of alignment (visiting grandparents, awakedness, and nobody was vomiting). I browsed the drinks menu, trying to decide between wine and gin (I know! The pressure!) while M performed small miracles with the bread basket. "Here, I turned this one inside out for you," he said, and presented me with the steamy guts of a dinner roll. When you are small and dressed in pink, marriage is a fairy castle encased in swirls of magical mist where you and your prince eat ice cream all day long and sing duets with sticky lips. When you are grown up and dressed in corduroys and a heavy brown sweater, marriage is someone knowing how you like your bread. By the way, I chose gin AND wine. And, later, coffee.
There's bread for toasting, bread for grilling and bread for paninis (Red Hen's “Cyrus Pringle” is our favorite). There's crusty bread that you tear off with your hands because you can't be bothered to find a proper cutting implement--in some ways it just tastes better, even without jam or cheese, so flavorful it just melts in your mouth. Then there's the bread slathered in butter and garlic that often accompanies a pasta dinner. The smells coming from the oven as it bakes excite the nose and the taste buds. Whatever remained after dinner we wrapped in foil, put in the fridge, then reheated the next day. But growing boys need something to sop up the littlest bit of sauce at the bottom of the bowl, that rate of growth seems to require every last crumb being consumed. Left overs here are now on the endangered species list.
Then there is the bread that is made more than ninety miles from our house, it is a rare and special treat when we bring Great Harvest home. When we lived in Michigan we often stopped at a certain plaza in Ann Arbor on Saturday mornings. We visited the little animals at the petstore, stopped in for a bit of playtime with the Thomas trains at the White Rabbit toystore and then each of us got a free slice of bread at the Great Harvest before making the agonizing decision over which loaf to bring home. My favorites were: “Red, White and Blue,” a hearty white bread with red and blue berries throughout, and “Chocolate Cherry Bomb,” a name which doesn't quite due justice to the sweet surprises found in each loaf. As M and T made plans to go to Burlington this weekend, I visited the website to swoon over the bread menu and make suggestions for what to bring home. I must admit I started dreaming about it. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, distance often intensifies desire.
Then Friday something happened that dispelled any thoughts I may have had about wanting a round loaf of bread. The day was just about over, when in walked a friend carrying a wrapped rectangular package that seemed like salvation itself. Once a year, and only then, does my friend engage in the act of baking her Eggnog bread. This ritual can only occur when the key ingredient is available and, as such, can only be dreamed about the other twelve months out of the year. Having her bring me one of these loafs was such a special treat that I almost jumped for joy. We no longer work together but manage to see each other a few times out of the year. Getting this bread in January made me feel as if the new year had finally begun. There were no countdowns, dropping balls, fireworks or dragon dances, rather the slicing of a piece, the accompanying cup of tea, savoring each bite, and using your finger to get every last crumb. I am not a growing teenage boy, but I do know that it will be awhile before this bread comes my way again.