Both of my grandmothers made bread. I still remember coming home from school, opening the door
and being greeted by that wonderful smell of bread baking. A visiting grandmother would be fluttering around the kitchen, tending to the details of preparing dinner while the bread baked. I soon would forget about the outside bread smell from the Wonder Bread plant.
My father’s mother was a warm, stout woman who loved kids, joking around, and playing pinochle.
Just before her bread came out of the oven, she knelt down and brushed egg whites over the top of each one. The loaves baked for a few minutes more and each came out with a golden, crusty top. Compared to this bread, the soft, white sliced Wonder Bread baking down the street was bogus, hardly a bread at all, I thought at the time.
My mother’s mother, a gentle woman with a permanent soft smile, baked her bread huge! She raised six boys and six girls who waited by the oven for the fresh bread she baked daily. Her technique for
tending the loaves was to apply a thin coat of lard to the tops of the loaves just before she took them out of the oven. That made for a nice, thick browned top, a softer crust than Dad’s mother made. I can see her now taking the bread out of the oven by grasping the hot bread-pan with nothing more than a part of her apron folded over to protect her hand, her face glowing warm like the bread.
I could not imagine one of her loaves fitting into a Wonder Bread wrapper. Way too big. The wrappers which contained the industrial bread were white with big letters announcing WONDER BREAD. With no individuality to each loaf, Wonder Bread made them all the same size, medium.
Both breads, branded by different women from different backgrounds were wonderful to eat while still warm. I miss the bread, I miss both grandmothers, too. The bread they baked served not only my physical hunger but some deeper hunger served by women who knew how to bake bread with love.
Wonder Bread died today, Nov. 21, 2012 when it’s owners declared bankruptcy. Their bread was alright, I suppose, but it served only half my hunger. To this day, I can’t eat a slice of white industrial bread. Instead, I try to find some home bakery bread to remind me of what real bread tastes like.