Putting Food On The Table – Aunt Emma’s Homemade Bread

newly-baked bread in grandmother's hands

     In our wonderful country, almost everyone seems to agree that we need a certain amount of intelligence monitoring and gathering. The issue seems to be to what extent the surveillance is necessary. When does the National Security Agency cross the line and simply become the nation’s busybody poking around into our private affairs?

     It’s too bad, my Aunt Emma is no longer with us. She was the NSA of our community, and her ability to gather intelligence was legendary. With her network of snoops and spies she ferreted out much of the local mischief, and she did it quickly and accurately. Nothing seemed to escape her probing and prying ways. “How did she find THAT out?” was always my mother’s response which was mixed with both curiosity and a bit of envy.

     I was lucky. At no time did I ever seem to be the object of her scrutiny, and I think it was because I would rave about her homemade bread. While every other housewife of that time was buying Wonder Bread, she was still baking those golden loaves of goodness. When I was in the army, and I was to return home on a two-week leave, my mother asked me what I would like to eat. I said, much to her chagrin, that while I’m home I’d like to have some of Aunt Emma’s bread.

     During one of my leaves, I stopped by her house and watched her make it. There was nothing fancy about Aunt Emma’s kitchen. Outfitted with modest appliances, lots of cupboards and counter space, and a phone close by (for intelligence gathering), it was always a noisy kitchen. Slamming doors, clanking pots and pans, and scraping skillets on the stove created the sound effects amongst all the hustle and bustle. She was not a French chef applying finesse and technique in the preparation of her dishes. Aunt Emma was a prairie cook preparing food with substance and doing it quickly and efficiently.

     She was a small, spry woman with wispy grayish-brown hair. Ringlets occasionally would fall down over her face, and she would blow them out of the way with a puff of air out of the side of her mouth.

     She also had a big bosom, which I think helped her work the dough. She would start with a mound on her floured breadboard and then start kneading it. She’d literally attack the dough by pressing it with the heels of her hands until it stretched out. Then she’d fold it over and rotate it a quarter turn and then repeat the process. She didn’t quit until it was pliant, elastic, and smooth. It was her way of showing the dough who was boss – pretty much the same approach she used on Uncle Emil. The process left the air full of flour dust and doughy-like smells. The product would be turned out into a buttered bread pan, covered with a towel, and then set aside.

     We would sit at the kitchen table drinking coffee while we waited for the dough to rise. During this time, she updated me on her latest intelligence gathering. And she always had plenty of information about the improprieties of our small town populace.

     When the dough had risen to twice its size, it went into the oven to be baked and then out of the oven to cool a bit. While it was still warm, she would cut one of those thick slices, and I would slather it with her homemade butter. More coffee and more intelligence info, and then I was on my way, feeling safe in the knowledge that all the sins and dirty dealings in her realm would eventually be exposed.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]