My school was about a mile and a half away from home. My sisters and brothers and I walked there every morning, and back each afternoon. School was rarely cancelled due to bad or even extremely cold weather: perhaps if the thermometer hit -35ºF, school would be cancelled, but mostly school was open, five days a week.
Every afternoon, when I was just about a half mile from home, I would start thinking about – and could almost smell – the fresh bread that would soon be coming out of my Mom’s oven. You have no idea how just thinking about it back then made me want to get home even more quickly. Even now, remembering how I felt then and the exhilarating anticipation I had of even smelling that bread brings a smile to my heart, and reminds me of how much I miss my Mom.
The truth is, I could never wait to get home. It was my Mom’s specialty: rolled-out bread, hot out of the oven.
Rolled-out bread!? What in the world is that?
I’m glad you asked!
Mom took the dough of what would have made a loaf of white bread and rolled it out flat to about 15″ in diameter. Then she put it into our hot wood and coal stove, right on the very bottom of the oven, to bake.
The bread came out of the oven with uneven bubbles of crisp bread. Some parts of it would be paper thin, and other parts were 3/4″ high. We were actually allowed to tear pieces off to eat – like you do in a fancy Italian restaurant when they bring the loaf of bread to your table with balsamic vinegar and olive oil dip. We didn’t need any dip, just a bit of butter. Talk about yummy! Sometimes we would put a spoon of strawberry jam on top, but most of the time we put nothing more than a skim of butter on top: we were in too big a hurry to eat the bread.
My Mom’s bread-making skills were wide-ranged, but she baked the best brown bread in the whole wide world. That’s not an exaggeration, it’s just the truth. I don’t know what set it apart from any other brown bread. Perhaps it was the amount of molasses she put in the bread. Or maybe it was because the whole wheat she used was really “whole wheat” flour. It could have also been the stove, which would be started with firewood and then, as the stove began to warm, the slower-burning coal would be added. To this day, I have never eaten any brown bread that would compare with my Mom’s. Never, never, never.
I bake buns which, although loved by many, they pale in comparison to my sister-in-law Dorothy (Lear) Stone’s buns, or my Mom’s breads. My older brother, Gerald – (Dorothy’s husband), began baking bread after he retired and his bread was a very close second to what our Mom used to make. Here’s an excerpt from his obituary in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.
Gerald began baking bread and adapted his mother’s brown bread recipe. He generously shared his bread with family and friends, and even took part in trading with neighbours for eggs, buns and burgers.
Gerald was 88 years and 4 months when he died, and I know I’m not the only one who misses him, his phone calls, his sense of adventure and his bread.