Friday, February 12, 2010

When good bread goes bad...

the birds get breakfast!

One of the habits I've tried to cultivate in the new year is making bread on a regular basis. It's just too difficult to buy good bread and too easy to make it to do otherwise, and over several weeks I've made round loaves of honey wheat and of rye, braids of challah, nubby pumpkin rolls, a quickish brioche.

And yet...there are days when it just doesn't work out--the yeast is expired, you look at the wrong recipe and add too much water, the water's too hot or too cold, ten minutes of kneading results in nothing but sore fingers.

The loaf of Yellow and Red and White Bread I made the week before the storm was a sorry loaf, the crust like a helmet, the inside dense. It was edible, but just. And then the snow came, and with it, birds looking for food. I rummaged through cupboards and threw them stale nuts and olive green pumpkinseeds before remembering the sorry loaf. The birds, of course, were less picky than I.

My grandfather used to buy soft loaves of white sandwich bread in red and white plastic bags from Mars grocery store. It was his "bread for the birds" and it sat atop my grandparents' icebox before Grandpop tore it up into shreds and scattered it under the giant holly tree. Grandpop was dilligent about feeding his birds, and stocked up during snowstorms, in the same way other folks hoard milk and toilet paper. It took me a very long time to realize that the bread wasn't marketed exclusively as bird food.

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