Of the many vivid memories that help shape who I’ve become, it’s the memories from the dinner table which I cherish most, an eager little boy listening to everything embracing all that was said. I’d watch all the hands and mouths going about their joyful tasks imprinting it somewhere in memory. Bread resides in many of those memories.
White bread was all my dad ate, he’d transform white sponginess into a utensil and push food onto his fork with its folded shape, a soft loaf of Tip-Top bread nearly touching his big elbow lay always open, allowing easy access to another slice. My mother savored dark hefty breads wafting with aroma’s from her childhood in the orphanage. Pungent rye filled with caraway seeds was her favorite for sandwiches. My fathers viewed himself and others in a simple easily defined generalizations while my mother saw layers and shades of complexity in most people and situations.
To an outsider bread may have seemed like just bread, but to me and my sister bread was the nuance defining our dinners together. During the week our house was chaos and it was bread that picture framed the many varied meals my Mother and Father would cobble together. Saturdays became the time bread as sandwiches replaced sit down meals, bread starring as a central character in our one act plays.
Once a week at the Italian market dad would buy long loafs of bread wrapped in waxy white paper embossed with blue lettering saying simply “Italian.” Once home he’d walk in the door with an obscenely long loaf of Authentic Italian bread under his arm along with a huge grin on his face. The next step involved drizzling copious amounts of garlic butter over each slice, he’d make sure each was drenched in flavor then he’d warm the loaf and serve us his version of an authentic spaghetti night, garlic bread with all the fixings making everything just right.
Breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays brought out toasted raisin bread from the A&P, mom would slather it with soft sweet butter, she’d always take tiny bites so not to finish before the rest of us.
In the summer the Jewish rye brimming with caraway seeds my mother loved so much took center stage, she would slather peaks of Cain’s mayonnaise to start followed by succulent garden tomato slices fresh picked lettuce leaves and three slices of sizzling bacon, and don’t forget the fresh black pepper.
During the week it was potatoes that everything else carouseled around, boiled potatoes smushed with butter and black pepper showed up weekday after weekday, please pass the bread.