Might As Well Face It (I’m Addicted to Bread)

image“Any time a person goes into a delicatessen and orders a pastrami on white bread, somewhere a Jew dies.” –Milton Berle

“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.” –M.F.K. Fisher

“‘A loaf of bread,’ the Walrus said, ‘is what we chiefly need: Pepper and vinegar besides are very good indeed.'” –Lewis Carroll

Hello. My name is Katie. And I’m addicted to bread.

I’ve tried to give it up; I’ve tried to avoid it, ignore it, resist it, keep it out of my house. I tell myself it’s no good, it will only bring me misery…but it’s no use. I can’t stay away from it.

I love homemade bread warm from the oven, slathered in butter. I love boring grocery store bread in a plastic bag. I love bread, generously buttered and grilled, with American cheese oozing from all sides. Raisin bread, toasted. Soft, white Wonder bread, stuffed with peanut butter and jelly. Pumpernickel, rye, multigrain; challah, focaccia, or ciabatta – savory or sweet, seeded or not, it really doesn’t matter.

At a restaurant, I can’t stop reaching for the bread basket. Another warm flaxseed roll with honey butter? Sure. Don’t mind if I do. Put that basket on the table right here, where I can keep an eye on it.

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I never met a loaf (or a roll or a bagel or a scone or a pretzel-bread bun) I didn’t like. And in these anti-carb, gluten-free days, I sometimes feel like the junkie on the corner, furtively waiting for Dr Feelgood to show up with my next fix. Except my doctor’s name is Holsum, Arnold, or Sunbeam, and the only thing he’s dispensing is carbs. One roll, slice, or loaf from the good doctor, and I’m on a ‘staff of life’ high and ain’t nothing gonna bring me down.

Until I notice my waistband’s getting a little tight…and the needle on the bathroom scale’s climbed upwards…and my face is getting a tad, shall we say, puffy – and I know it’s time to go cold turkey. I need a whole-wheat withdrawal sandwich, hold the mayo…and most importantly, HOLD THE BREAD. It’s time to bring out the big guns: the low-cal, thin-sliced whole grain loaf, the Bagel Thins, the Ryvita crackers.

The carbohydrate carnival ride is over, and I’m getting off the carousel. At least for today.

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This bread thing started up again (I could say it ‘arose,’ but I’ll refrain) when I watched a French-subtitled movie, Gemma Bovery. It’s a modern update of Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert’s novel, about an English couple who buy a house in Normandy. Feeling neglected by her husband Charles, Gemma grows restless. She embarks on an affair with a handsome young law student while Charles is away on a business trip.

The situation, as anyone already familiar with Flaubert’s novel knows, can only end badly.

The theme of bread – baking it, kneading it, making it, eating it – runs through the film from the opening credits until the tragi-comic ending. The couple’s next-door neighbor, Joubert, owns the village boulangerie. He patiently explains the difference between the different breads to Gemma, and even shows her how to knead the dough. It’s one of the most sensual scenes in the movie.

Seeing all that bread – rising, baking, on display, being consumed…made me crave a loaf, crusty and still warm, torn off and spread with soft, melting butter.

So…if you know where I can score some Portuguese sweet bread or German rye, or maybe a nice Polish babka, I’ll pay whatever you want. Just do me a favor – don’t tell anyone you saw me. Let’s keep this loaf of French or Italian (or whatever) strictly between the two of us…