Sunday, March 24, 2019


Hick Bread

Paul Gruchow (1947-2004), Grass Roots: The Universe of Home (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 1995), pp. 45-46:
The only acute pain that I can recall suffering because of my family's poverty was the intense humiliation I felt when I discovered, as an adolescent, that most people lived another way and that there was something shameful, so far as others were concerned, about the way we lived. I was embarrassed to invite my friends to our house, which I had thought cozy and warm until I was made to see it as dirty and bare.

Bread was the issue over which we children voiced our new-found shame. Ours was home baked, using wheat raised and ground on the farm, leavened with home-cultured yeast, and sweetened with honey made by the bees we kept at the bottom of our garden. It was fabulous bread; almost every year it won my mother a purple ribbon at the Chippewa County fair. The slicing of the first loaf in a new batch, still steaming, its sweet, nutty aroma filling the kitchen, was one of the sacred rituals of our household.

But my sisters and I, driven by the collapse of rural society out of our local school and into the consolidated town school, had tasted the allure of a new world. We had acquired the preference of the age for anything manufactured over anything homemade. We suddenly coveted boughten bread, contrived from flour so denuded of its essence that its only nutrients came from artificial additives. We were no longer content to eat hick bread. "Wonder Bread builds strong bodies seven ways," we said, proud of our familiarity with modern advertising slogans. We yammered and complained, I am ashamed to confess, until Mother finally gave up baking bread, and we began to eat, like modern folk, a factory substitute.

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