Saturday Morning, 5:30 AM.
The rain was dripping off the eaves, and Certain
Man’s Wife, snuggled under the covers to catch a few extra winks of sleep.
There would be no wood cutting for the few brave men of Laws Mennonite Church,
so Certain Man wouldn’t be down the road for most of the day, working himself
half to death. In fact, this was the day that Certain Man and Certain Man’s
Wife were to go out hunting for the great Wedding Suit that would be suitable
for the “father of the groom” for not only one son’s wedding, but actually,
“I refuse to buy separate suits for weddings that will be only eight weeks
apart!” he stated, rather emphatically. And so, since Youngest Son and Girl With a Beautiful Heart suggested that he wear a black suit for their wedding, and the Eldest Son and His Ohio Heart Throb didn’t really care what he wore as long as he was dressed, the decision was made to go looking for a black suit that would serve a dual purpose. (Now if only Certain Man’s Wife could do the same with “mother of the groom” dresses. Ha, Ha!)
Certain Man had proclaimed that he really didn’t have time to go shopping. His chickens were going out early Monday morning, there were things to do in the chicken house, and there was a dinner and a play at Youngest Daughter’s school at 5:30 in the evening that Youngest Daughter was a part of. It was imperative that they attend. Certain Man decided that, if they got off early, they should be back early, and that would leave plenty of time to do everything at home that he wanted to do. So the time was set to leave soon after nine o’clock Saturday morning. CMW thought briefly that the Mall wouldn’t even open until ten, but reasoned that CM is quite often not ready when he thinks he will be, so thought that it would be fine.
As she lay sleepily listening to the rain and thinking about the day ahead, it suddenly dawned on her fur brain that she was almost out of bread. And tomorrow, the families of their small group were coming for lunch, as this particular small group are the designated hosts for the first Sunday of every month, and the food had been taken care of except the bread. Usually there is plenty of bread at the house of Certain Man and Certain Man’s Wife because CMW bakes ten loaves at a time whenever the supply gets low.
This actually is not the job that it might appear to be. Certain Man put a second cookstove in a little alcove in CMW’s laundry room, and it is usual for her to be able to bake those ten loaves from the beginning mixing to finished baking in about three hours.
Of course, CMW calculated the time between her head on the pillow and 9:00 AM (well, actually, 9:30 or 10:00) and realized that there was enough time to bake bread before she left for the shopping mall. That way, she wouldn’t get into any complications after she got home, and there would be bread for lunch the next day. So before she (or Certain Man) could change her mind, she leaped out of bed and started rummaging for day clothes.
“Where are you going?” questioned Great Sleeping Bear. I mean, Certain Man.
“If I get busy right now, I can bake bread before we head out for Dover. I think I will be glad later tonight that it is done.” He made some mild objections, but didn’t actually tell her she couldn’t, so she descended down to the kitchen to commence to start.
Three cups of dry milk powder went into her big Pyrex mixing bowl, then she filled it until it was ready to overflow with hot water. Ten cups of reconstituted milk. It went in to her gigantic metal bowl. Three more cups of warm water went into the same Pyrex mixing bowl, and she added a half cup of active dry yeast. She measured two cups of sugar, poured a small amount over the yeast and stirred that mixture, then added the rest of the sugar to the hot milk. Then she added 1/3 cup of salt to the milk and sugar, and went to get 2 cups of Crisco to melt in the microwave. After the yeast has risen, and she pours it into the milk, salt and sugar mixture, she adds a five pound bag of flour before adding any of the melted shortening. (It has something to do with the yeast binding to the flour before the shortening is added that makes for a better consistency.)
This is where everything went wrong. There was no plain white Crisco in the entire house. CMW looked. And looked. And looked! Here and there, up and down, under and over. And then did it all again. She was sure there was some white Crisco shortening somewhere in the house, but it was nowhere to be seen. She finally found a can of Butter flavored Crisco that she looked at dubiously. She just didn’t think it would be okay, but after the third time through the kitchen, she talked herself into using that butter flavored Crisco, even though she was afraid that it wasn’t a good idea.
Thus begins the saga of another, “I can’t believe I really did that!” But it is in retrospect. Nothing would have prepared CMW for the real problem.
As most yeast bakers know, there is nothing like baking bread on a rainy day. The atmospheric pressure does something special with the dough, and the bread is often much better than CMW really deserves. And Saturday looked like it would be no exception. The bread went together beautifully. She added the melted yellow Crisco to the original mixture, and worked most of another 5 lb. bag of flower into it. The dough whistled while CMW kneaded it, ( a sure sign of a good dough) and it felt and looked like some of the better bread that CMW has made in her time. It rose beautifully and was perfect in so many ways. It was a little more yellow than usual, and CMW thought that there just might be a little different smell. But it looked so nice, she brushed off her anxieties. She’s been often told that she is like her Lauver ancestors when it comes to cooking. Something is just never quite right, somehow..
Certain Man’s wife set the ten beautiful loaves to cool and got ready in plenty of time to go to Dover, and left everything in the care of others. It was a perfect day for suit shopping, as JCPenney had 50% off their suits on a six hour sale and CM and CMW were there at the exact right time. A nice suit was procured in anticipation of the upcoming weddings, and CMW came home early, and looked at her good bread. It made her feel really good to think she had discovered that, in a pinch, bread made with butter flavored Crisco was just as good as bread made with regular flavored Crisco.
Until CMW tasted it. Oh, no! You could taste that butter flavored Crisco, and believe you me, it didn’t make the bread taste buttery. It had a very strange taste to it. CMW held her peace. Maybe no one would notice it.
The first loaf got sliced and half eaten before it was cool. Certain Man, the official bread slicer, cut the rest, put eight in the freezer for later use, and left the loaf and a half out for Small Group lunch the next day.
The Small Group families came, and everyone that took bread ate it, and nary a complaint was made, but CMW just couldn’t quite put her finger on what there was about it that was just so wrong. So she took a loaf to the gathering at her Sweet Mama’s house on Sunday night. Again, though it was discussed at great length in company of all those good cooks, the smell and the flavor were something elusive. Familiar, but elusive.
“Hey, Mom,” said Youngest Daughter on Monday (having been absent from the other discussions), “this bread has a funny taste, somehow. It actually smells like homemade doughnuts!”
Maybe that was it. CMW came over to take a sniff, and sure enough, it did smell like a homemade doughnut. And it did not set right with her. She still had seven loaves that she needed to get rid of somehow.
So she has faithfully packed Eldest Son’s lunch all week with it. He doesn’t like it much, but since he is on a diet, he says that pretty much anything tastes good to him once he gets used to it.
CMW cannot “get used to it.” It actually turns her stomach when she smells it.
Middle Daughter optimistically says that it is okay as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Certain Man says to just get rid of it.
Eldest Daughter says to take it in to a local “recovery house.” “They won’t know the difference, ” she says cheerfully. “And besides, it will be gone by the time they figure it out, so it won’t matter.”
CMW thinks of those loaves of bread in her freezer and wishes they would disappear. She doesn’t want to give them away because it might damage her reputation. (!) Uh-huh. She especially doesn’t want to give it away to people who “won’t know the difference.” That is against the way she has been taught. It seems a little like giving used tea bags to the missionaries. But neither does she want to give it to someone who would know the difference. They would probably wish they hadn’t received it. And even though it is nice that she isn’t tempted to eat that bread, it doesn’t seem fair for it to expect her family to eat it.
So. Is there any advice for this dilemma?
What would you do if you were Certain Man’s Wife?
Saturday Morning, 5:30 AM.