On my Dad’s 64th birthday, I thought it was appropriate to write about one of the first things I think of, when his name comes to mind: his homemade bread. My dad has been baking bread at home for as long as I can remember. As a matter of fact, I bet he’s been doing it since before I was born.
He doesn’t have a recipe, really, though I think he consults one now and then to get ideas when he’s adding new ingredients, or braiding it into Christmas gifts for the neighbours.
I remember when I was a kid, my mother would pack up my lunch and guide me out the door to school. At lunch I’d pout because all the other kids got this elusive thing called store-bought bread, and I was stuck with homemade. As if that were something to pout about! As if homemade bread were somehow on the same level of bourgeois as hand-me-downs were at that time (I pouted about that too). I would eye up the exotic, fluffy, white bread that bookended slices of juicy ham and cheesewiz, as they were shoved into my peers’ open mouthes. Then I would stare down morosely at the peanut-butter sandwich that accompanied the heart-shaped note my mom had lovingly written me that day. My dad’s homemade bread would stare back at me, brown in colour, with a thick crust.
Ironic that at the time, all I wanted was a piece of that empty, cloud-like bread, not knowing that what I had, was in fact a rare luxury. To think that I was a kid who envied store-bought bread because I had never tasted it. That makes me realize just how amazing my parents were. They could have easily gone out and bought a loaf of pre-cut, nutrient-void bread and thrilled me with it, but instead my dad made it every Saturday morning, filling the air with flour and the CBC (Quirks and Quarks to be exact).
Then we’d sit down together and he’d edit my essays, help me with math equations I still can’t figure out, and ask me how my friends were. And if we were really lucky that weekend, he’d make the family pizza for dinner, even the dough from scratch. Chances were, half the ingredients on that pizza had come out of the veggie garden he and my mom still tend, to this day.
When my parents replaced their counters a number of years ago, one of the things they removed was a squeak that had been created by my dad, who hand-kneaded his bread in the exact same spot every week. That squeak has never returned, which is a testament to the new counters, because my dad still kneads in that spot.
Recently I visited my parents during the day on a Saturday. As I walked into their house I was greeted by the smell that instantly took me back to being a child. My dad had just pulled six loaves out of the oven, in the same old, dented bread pans that he’s been using for over thirty years.
“Want to take a loaf home?” He asked, as I cut a slice of the steaming stuff and lathered it with butter. Getting his bread fresh, and right out of the oven, feeling it melt in my mouth, is such a rarity for me now, with my crazy schedule.
“I sure do!” I said. I enjoyed a slice of my dad’s homemade bread every day that week until it was gone. His bread has not changed since I was a child. It reminds me that the best things in life do not necessarily need to be changed, and that they’re probably right there, in front of your eyes.
My dad will continue to bake bread until the day he is no longer able. And it is a good reminder to me, to go over and visit my parents more often, so that I can enjoy that bread while it’s still coming out of the oven in multiple pans. My dad has a lot of bread-making years left in him, and I plan on being around to enjoy every single one of them.