Friday, July 31, 2009

French Bread

To paraphrase one of my favorite comedians, George Carlin, I love America. I really do. I would not want to live anywhere else in the world. But ... I am sorry ... America cannot make bread!

Maybe I have been spoiled for the first 23 years of my life at the Romanian small streets bakeries, and home made doughs. Maybe I have lived at the confluence of three major cultures that know bread: Romanian, Greek and Turkish! Maybe it's just Europe all around that does it better... I am not sure what it is, but whenever The Pilgrims came over, they forgot the bread on the other side of The Pond!!

But there is one bread that sort of brings memories back and is the best balm at the end of a tough week. It is definitely not Romanian or, with the risk of ignorantly generalizing, "European", but ... it comes close. Harris Teeter sells this crusty French bread, usually warm, that I absolutely love! It's usually on special, or sold out, on Fridays, by the time I hit the store. But it is with no failing and no doubt the best afternoon snack - or whole dinner - when I miss home and I want some cozy food to make my bad moods wash away.

We're ALL emotional eaters (aren't you glad that someone finally said it?! - yes, we all are!!), and this is my drug of choice! Sure, mashed potatoes straight out of the pot are too, but when I am not feeling like working for my drug, French bread it is.

I usually drive straight to the above mentioned store, and once inside, head for the Deli section, with no distraction, check the wicker basket first (that's where they have the "yard stick" loaves), and then for the regular shelf (where they have the 'Small French bread' - people usually don't notice those, and they're seldom sold out), and grab a loaf! The whole time my mouth is water, and my heart is beating fast, with anticipation. I try not to shop for a lot on Friday evenings, just to make sure I get out fast, with my bread!

I do the "check yourself out" line, and head for my car, bread in one hand, keys in the other. Gosh, I feel like an addict, and it feels sinfully good! Usually, all my purchases go in the trunk. Not the crusty, warm French bread! That goes to the passenger seat. Before I start the engine, I open the bag, and tear about a 5 inch piece off. Oh, memories flood my mind then: of my elementary school teacher buying her bread for her dinner over lunch, and bringing it in the classroom, and us, kids, asking politely (the smell was overwhelming!!) if we could have a piece. She always bought about 3 extra loaves so she should share them with us. So, while I am starting the car, backing out of the spot, and driving myself home, I am eating, with big bites, my 5 inches of French bread. Crusty. Warm. Fresh. So close to perfect and yet not quite there. But such a perfect surrogate, nonetheless.

And all the worries, bad moods, and dark energies of the week disappear into thin air. Just like that! No more. And then, once home, I snack on more, throughout the evening, sometimes skipping dinner altogether and filling up on bread. No, it's not just "dough". It's kneading hands, and work (to me!), it's the fruit of the earth, it's care, and love of food, it's memories, and heart balm!

French bread (to me) bought this way, and consumed as such, becomes so much more than just food. It becomes your favorite elixir, and your best friend, your comfiest chair, your warmest, most welcome and generous arms, your cheapest psychologist and your dinner, all in one!

They say that you can get to dogs' hearts through their stomachs. You can do so with people, too. Just find that one thing that does this for you. And you'll never go hungry! For food, emotions, ... what have you ...

Happy weekend, all. And happy snacking!

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