Who would think to ask your mother about the bread in her life? I knew my mother thought Wonder Bread was correctly named. My brother and I took it for granted but she made a big deal of how wonderful it was. It has just dawned on me that she must have been making bread all her life and was very glad to stop. Now I understand why she could turn out Parker House Rolls with one hand behind her back, as it were. Now I know that it wasn't so much that the bread was sliced, but that it existed. When I started learning to make bread she had no comment, as it would have been no big deal to her. I tried a different way to keep the dough warm enough to rise every time I baked. I set a bowl of hot water in a deep sink, and covered it. I built little shacks out of cookie sheets. I tried a barely warm oven. Nothing worked dependably until I happened upon The Tassajara Bread Book. From then on, the bread was perfect every time and we had real bread for years.
The Tassajara Bread Book, by Edward Espe Brown, Shambala Publications, Inc., Berkeley, CA, © 1970 by the Chief Priest, Zen Center, San Francisco, I bought my copy in 1973 in Buffalo, visiting the Youngest at college. A 25th anniversary edition brought the book back and it is now available at bookstores, or on line. Price ranges from $9.60 to $12.00. The first basic recipe takes 16 pages with large clear type, line drawings showing every move, choices for most ingredients. My copy is spotted and covered with notes, the last of which, on the last page of the basic recipe, says, "GOOD!" If I were to resume real baking I wouldn't bother to look at any book but this.
When anyone had an upset stomach or other sorrow, mother administered Toast and Milk. Pennsylvania Dutch people call it Bread Soup. Mother toasted two slices of soft, non-nutritious, store-bought, white bread, buttered them generously, laid them in a wide soup dish, and poured warm milk over, to the top of the top slice. We were allowed to spoon on all the sugar we wanted. It never failed as a cure. One time on a trip mother managed to order the components in a restaurant, but of course it didn't taste right. I've tried it now and then as an adult, and whether it's memory or the warm milk or the sugar, it still works.
Family history is reflected in the cooking changes. The kids left. DH had heart surgery and gave up eggs for breakfast, and therefore toast. I started a string of orthopedic disasters and had to learn to cook quickly and get off my feet. Soon after that, DH had a stroke and I became the full time caregiver. Standing up to knead dough, making six loaves of bread and freezing five and a half was no longer a good idea, but I was used to "real bread" by this time so I turned to a bread machine. I have now fallen so far into laziness as to buy large boxes of assorted prepared bread machine mixes. For a single eater, this is a pretty good solution. The assorted flavors are interesting. A one or one and a half pound loaf can be eaten by one person before it spoils.
Before I found the big boxes of mix, I tried a great variety of bread machine recipes. The strangest recipe I have ever found, for anything, is one of these, Ginger Ale Bread. No relation to Irish soda bread. My other favorite was Honey/Buttermilk.
There is no therapeutic exercise in bread machine use. There is very little sense of creation or of achievement. There is no way a bread machine could keep up with the peanut butter sandwich era of family life, or the hollow leg teen-age period. The bread machine does, however, send up the same heavenly aroma that must have risen from kitchens all over the country before Wonder Bread came along. And it lets you have that end slice of hot, fresh bread, a taste that has no equal, as often as you like.