By Jane Gingles
A favorite Windmill Memory from my early childhood is the aroma of Mom’s home-made bread! There was nothing better than that wonderful smell and the beautiful crusty loaf of home-made bread hot from the oven.
My mom baked loaves of bread often during the winter but in summertime, it was a daily task and due to having a hired-hand or neighbors sharing a farm task, it was usually several loaves. If Leonard or Gladys were around the house, they would ask for a hot crust and cover it with good home-churned butter. That was a task assigned to me early in life. Mom had an old-fashioned crock churn with a paddle at the end of a long stick that one raised up and down until the good thick rich cream turned into a hard lump of butter.
One summer day after one of the siblings had their hot buttered crust and went to their task at hand, I decided the bread smelled so good that I would have a sample. I pulled my taste from the middle of the loaf as it was when I was losing baby teeth and a crust was hard for me to chew. I remember as the afternoon went past, I kept having tastes from the interior of that loaf of warm bread, yummy! Imagine the surprise to Mom when it was time to start supper and she found one loaf to be an empty shell of crust! There was no punishment or even a mom’s ‘scolding’! There was a good laugh and Leonard and Gladys were happy to have plenty of crusty slices.
I remember Mom always made her bread with a “starter”, meaning she would remove about a cup of dough without all the flour added and it would ferment into starter for the next baking day. On occasion she would need to begin new with a cube of fresh yeast. I loved the taste of yeast and she never gave me much of a sample. I am sure it never occurred to me to wonder how she got the oven to be a correct baking temperature on her “Home Comfort” cook stove when she had no oven thermometer. She had to regulate the heat by the number of corn cobs or small pieces of wood she used in the firebox of the stove.
Some of her sisters would buy ‘store bought bread’. I think it was a nickel a loaf. I remember one time when Mom bought a loaf of that wonderful soft bread. I loved it but when Dad picked up a slice, he said “What on earth is this bunch of air?” promptly squeezing the slice into nothing! He made it clear that he wasn’t going to eat ‘that junk’.
Mom’s bread was special and as I recall it was a favorite at family dinners. When I write about Gladys and a cousin going to high school in Haddam and had to stay in a house my Dad bought to meet their eligibility of changing from a Republic County school to a Washington County school, there will be more about Mom’s bread.
Preparing farm meals during the depression years was much different than now. I recall that Mom would kill and clean chickens, dig potatoes or pick beans or peas or dig carrots from her garden, make a cake or a couple pies plus bake fresh bread. Never did I see her use a recipe.
The memory of Mom’s meals is a very special “Windmill Memory” that can never be forgotten.