Our Choice of Bread Defines Where We have Come From, Who We Are, and Sometimes Who We Aspire To Be

breadOur eleven year old granddaughter, visiting for spring break, asked for a sandwich. Ever the doting grandmother, I had purchased three different kinds of breads to have for her to choose from. I was not surprised with her selection, and with the ease of her making it. As I cut slices from the whole loaf and made her sandwich, I thought back on how different my choice was when I was eleven years old.

My grandparents were European Holocaust survivors. The breads of choice in our family were also three. My brother, then eight years old, and I would walk alone to the neighborhood bakery with a quarter to buy a loaf of rye bread or pumpernickel. It was the fifties and the safest decade in the history of mankind. Today, I would never let our eleven year old granddaughter out of sight within a supermarket where we now buy our bread, much less let her walk alone anywhere.

On the way home, the warm fragrant bread beckoned my brother and me to eat half the loaf. Other than being upset by this, our mother, GG Frieda (great grandmother), was overjoyed that we could eat as much as we wanted, that we were not starving as she was in her youth. We would just repeat the seven block or so walk the next day. On holidays, our mother would bake challah from scratch, the recipe of her mother and her mother before her. She taught me the complex braiding and the egg glaze to make the loaves shine, or at least tried to. I wanted to be American, and European was considered foreign and different. No child wants to be different. Yet, my brother and I, in the privacy of our home, devoured the mini loaves of challah our mother made for us, and huge slices she cut from the large loaves.

What defined us as different in school was the bread with which my brother and my sandwiches were made. Television commercials abounded about Wonder Bread, the pure white in color spongy bread that was supposed to contain all the added vitamins and minerals to make us American children grow healthy and strong. Our classmates all brought sandwiches on white bread, and my brother and I coveted that white bread. We begged and begged and finally our parents brought Wonder bread into our home. We now fit in with our classmates, our sandwiches also made of white bread. We lived two lives with our breads. Rye, pumpernickel, and challah were our home breads. To the outside world, we were pure white bread.

Nothing in our house ever went to waste, especially food. Our refrigerator was always full as were our plates, and we were expected to eat everything on them. After all, we were reminded daily of how lucky we were to have food to eat. Our Wonder bread loaf, by the end of the school week, was still leftover. We balked at not having a fresh loaf for the next week. When the leftover Wonder bread was stale and starting to mold, it was never thrown out. Our father, GG Morton, (great grandfather), complained about having to finish our “cardboard,” as he called our American bread. He said we had no taste buds to eat such bland tasteless sponge, but he always finished the loaves, even with the green mold that had appeared. We would hear again and again that a little mold never hurt anyone, that he and our mother ate totally green bread when they could even find that, and bark off trees to keep from starving to death. Our parents told us there were still children starving in Europe, where they were from.

Little did we realize then when we were children that we preferred the rye, the pumpernickel, and the challah, as we finished those loaves of bread quickly.

This grandma cannot remember when ethnic breads became favored among Americans and white bread became disfavored as unhealthy, but our grandchildren do not ask for nor eat white bread. Whole grain breads are in, and whole wheat bread is what our grandchildren and their schoolmates have their sandwiches on. Organic is even better. Rye and pumpernickel are in favor as healthy and flavorful. Sour dough has become favored as lowest in calories and healthy to eat.

The three choices of bread I gave our granddaughter included sliced loaves of packaged whole wheat, freshly sliced bakery sour dough, and bakery whole loaf of challah. Her favorite bread is challah, from which I cut her desired thickness of bread for her sandwich. I do not think that she would even consider white bread for a sandwich choice. She has grown up with diversity. Diversity in cultures to which she is exposed, and the breads that are available to sample, show her ability to be comfortable with whom she is and her choice of bread to show the world.

Over processed foods and “fake” foods with terrible ingredients detrimental to our health are what we worry about now. Organic is what we want and virtually all we ate in the nineteen fifties. Safe foods are what we worry now about. See post on flour safety, “No More Scraping The Bowl When and If Baking With Grandchildren and Throw Away Your Flour.” 

Rye, pumpernickel, challah and ethic and gourmet breads are so today. However, they are now three to five dollars a loaf.

Dear grandchildren, we should celebrate our choices and the abundance that being Americans gives us. Now I sound just like GG Frieda and GG Morton. There are still children in the world, and even in America, without any bread and starving, my precious grandchildren.  As my brother and I did as children, we should continue to donate to children’s funds to feed children.

Our abundance in bread defines where we came from, who we are, and sometimes who we aspire to be. How lucky our family has been to be welcomed into America and allowed to become Americans.






  1. Audrey Johnson says:

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful story. We are very blessed with our abundance these days. Thankfully many of the adults of our world do not know anything else. I now want to go make a loaf of bread.

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