When I was a child, my stepfather Carl would bake bread. I don’t know where he learned to do it, maybe from his mother or older sister, growing up on the farm in southern Brazil. He didn’t work off a recipe; the flour and yeast and water and salt just sort of came together in his hands. My little brothers Cole and Kyle would be picking lone Cheerios off the floor and playing with toys under the table, my brother Elan and I making masterpieces with our fingers against the condensation that had gathered on the big kitchen window. That warm yeasty smell filled our little kitchen, even Rico the Evil Parrot seemed to enjoy it.
I think we were always a little surprised at how small the loaf was when it came out of the oven. How had something so little filled a whole room with goodness? We ate it immediately, still warm, when it was simultaneously chewy and crusty, letting our tabs of Land’O’Lakes melt into every crevice, and licking our lips of extra guava paste. The guava paste was Carl’s touch. We had the circular cans from Goya, and that concentrated jelly on the buttery bread reminded me of my other guilty pleasure: the Cuban guava pastry. My mother was the pastry chef of the family. But the days that Carl baked bread were very good days
Bread is the ultimate comfort food, for better or for worse. The smell of baking bread always makes me think that things are alright in the world. It’s one of those foods most everyone shares a love for. We break bread together.
So go ahead and indulge in that fresh-baked loaf from your local bakery. In SF, be it Tartine, Paris, Bread and Roses or Rose Bakery, New York, Grandaisy, Sullivan St., Balthazar, Blue Ribbon, Amy’s, Eli’s….