Slightly’s kitchen and multi-grain loaf – cut with a ‘sharpened’ serrated knife
Slightly Bemused writes:
I got up yesterday morning to find something dreadful. We had no bread in the house. Breakfast would have to await a trip to the shop.
Little Slightly and I have this agreement. Every time we buy bread we buy a different type. I am going for the wholesome brown breads of various types. She is loving the simpler white sliced as it makes a better peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We are ranging on butters too, from real butter through the various forms of spreadable. I think she has a cunning plan on trying every form of butter against every form of bread. A carbohydrate loaded path awaits me. I have yet to introduce her to soda bread.
But this morning was a problem. I bought a lovely, still warm multigrain loaf from a popular little supermarket down the road. They have this wonderful machine that makes your bread better by turning it into sliced bread – the best thing ever, or so the saying goes. Actually, it was “the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped”, but who is checking?
You can choose from a range of options, from thin to doorstop, and it makes this satisfying thunky sound while working. And always there is a lonely, abandoned end of crust which did not make the cut. Or rather, did, and got left behind, along with the crumbs of many other loaves who wished to enrich the lives of their new found families. I have to admit to snarfing a few random ends to see what that particular loaf tasted like.
The last loaf I bought there had an errant end piece. It fell off after the first cut, and was recalcitrant in deciding to get into the bag for the journey home. In solidarity, the other ends decided to go on strike and went against the grains by slipping under the rest and making for freedom. But all was held in check, I managed to bag my ends, and home we went for a little second breakfast.
It must have been good as I got up the next day and it was gone, with telltale evidence of plates and cutlery and remnants of a product I thought would never grace my shelves was smeared across my knives. It turns out that my local supermarket, known for keeping a certain brand of sausages alive that I have not introduced her to yet, has an American Section. Among other things it has the very brand of this hideous paste that she prefers, and a mix for making ranch dressing. I can almost forgive them because of the latter. As a very young one ranch was her favourite, and it is not easy to come by. So a small taste of home while she nibbles and reads the next book just released from her favourite pair of authors.
When she was little, Little Slightly loved what she called ants on a log. Take a stalk of celery, fill it with peanut butter to the level, roughly smoothing the surface, then place raisins along it. At the time, she would devour loads of it. Apparently the really devious parents would cut this concoction from hell into bite size pieces and serve it at childrens’ parties. Admittedly, this was usually alongside slices of ham smothered in cream cheese and rolled up, similarly sliced into cocktail size morsels.The young lady next door, who has adopted Little as her own, had never had peanut butter. Another cunning plan is under way to get her to eat more veggies by introducing her to ants on a log. I will keep the secrets of the ham rolls to myself for now.
All this aside, I will not be involved with the ants. I do not consider celery to be food, as it takes more energy to digest than it gives to the body. Parasitic foliage. And while I love peanuts and peanut oil, peanut butter is the food of the devil!
But I digress a little. Yesterday morning I went to the shop for bread, but the lovely funny cutting machine was not working. No thunking, no slicing, no ‘greatest thing’ as this was just unsliced bread. This loaf was coming home whole.
Did I tell you about our divorce lottery? For some reason, I ended up with Little Slightly’s mother’s cutlery. This is good stuff, and ended up in my half of the roughly divided belongings. Little Slightly I think has grown fed up with me saying ‘Oh, that used be your mother’s!”. A little less so about “We bought that in [insert place here] together.” Apparently her mother says the same, sometimes, and I wonder what I had that not only is worth the memory, but lasted this long!
But my various utensils also include a knife set given to me by Glitter Slightly’s father. Among its many cutting options is an old fashioned style bread knife. So home I come, out comes the breadboard, and away I go slicing my breakfast into the second best thing. Little Slightly was not impressed. I am not sure, but I think she may not have understood the way to slice bread like this, before machines did it for us.
My Mum used occasionally treat us to warm batch loaves. For some reason batch loaves were always unsliced, and we would have to cut them to our own preference. Debates raged over the best way to cut, with the hard crusty top and soft four base, did you start from the top and risk going awry, or from the bottom up and take the crust from below, when the main slice was already mostly ready. A risky strategy, as it required balancing the loaf on its rounded top of crunchy loveliness. My Mum’s wisdom was the sideways approach, offering the best of both worlds. Sandwiches were made with warm chicken for some, egg salad for others, whatever our fancy that day. My favourite has to be corned beef with real butter! But four batch loaves had to make enough slices for us all, so we had to learn how to measure our cleavings.
My mother was a cut above the rest, as far as I am concerned She could pare with the precision of an engineer’s tooling shed. Particularly cheese. We owned this carving knife that had been in her family for generations (Glitter’s father has it now) and it was as sharp as a scalpel. We were all taught how to whet on it, and failure was not an option. No ridicule, merely the withdrawal of permission to use this blade. And hours of practice on the more modern ones until deemed worthy once more.
Between Mum, and Dad teaching us to hone chisels, our house was a very sharp place. I need to do the same with Little Slightly: my favourite blade is protesting her different style of wielding the steel. I understand more fully why chefs have their individual sets – self and steel become almost one.
I was taught how to sharpen a serrated knife. If you want a whole load of not so much fun, try it! Dad left me his micro whets.
But with that familial blade my mother could shave the wind. In particular, we got big blocks of cheddar cheese, rectangular but about the right size to fit a sliced pan. And my mother could cut it so thin it was translucent. Window cheese, we called it, and wondered at this magic. In later life we realised she was making it go as far as she could, but none of us have yet reached her level of mastery.
I can still wield a hefty bread knife, and set out with board and blade to cut slices to help me celebrate the new born day. I carved what I needed, and rewrapped the rest. When she arose, Little Slightly was unimpressed. Out for groceries, and a different, more proud pan was bought, and my bread knife was consigned to the dishwasher before its time.
Which begs the question: should I have sliced all the loaf, and if I had, would she have noticed?
This morning I will want a slice of life, and I do not mind having to work for it. Out will come a board, a knife, and a loaf. Not sure what adornments may follow, but I will enjoy them, And my Little one’s paste is safe from me for another granary day.
Slightly Bemused‘s column appears here every Wednesday.
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