There is nothing better than the smell of bread baking.
My grandma filled her house every Saturday with that
wonderful aroma. She baked, weekly, three loaves of
bread, a pan of what she called "light rolls"
(today they are known as dinner rolls) and a pan of
There was always a small crock of "bread starter"--sour
dough-- in the ice box. She kept it going by frequently
adding potato water. She began her baking by taking
a handful of this starter, adding flour, salt, sugar
and water, to make whatever she wanted to bake.
I was part of this baking in the 1930's but I cannot
remember what was in the starter. I checked a 1921
Pillsbury cookbook and in that book their recipes
used yeast. There was no mention about a starter.
All I know is the starter never ran out and I have
no idea how long Grandma had kept it. The flour
was from wheat that my grandparents had grown and
ground at the local mill. There was a pantry in
the house that always had several sacks of flour
waiting to be used.
Once the bread was baked, it was wrapped in tea
towels and put in a large tin bread box on the kitchen
counter. We had our bread for the week. The light
rolls made Sunday dinner special. During the week
there were sandwiches made with thick slices of
bread. Breakfast toast was made by first baking
slices of the bread in the oven until they were
very crisp. When we got ready to eat them, Grandma
would heat water to boiling and we would dip the
crispy slices into the water to warm them. We would
cover them with sugar and cinnamon for a great breakfast.
I found a similar recipe in the Pillsbury book called
cream or milk toast, except they poured a milk sauce
or cream sauce over the toast.
As the week progressed, my uncle Melvern, who helped
Grandma with the farm after my Granddad died, would
use stale bread and soak it overnight in soured
milk. The next morning , he would add eggs, fresh
milk, some flour and sugar to make pancakes. What
a treat! At the end of the week if there were any
of the cinnamon rolls left they became the base
for bread pudding for the next week.
The other grain we used was corn. This was also
milled into corn meal at the local mill. We had
corn bread when we had soup beans and ham. Since
very little was wasted, corn meal was used with
left over bacon or sausage. The corn meal was cooked
into boiled "mush," the bits of meat would
be stirred in and the whole thing was spooned into
a pan and put in the icebox. The next morning we'd
cut it into slices and fry them in the bacon grease
that was always saved for cooking to add flavor.
This made a wonderful warm breakfast of fried mush
that we covered with butter and syrup.
Today, over seventy years later, when my sister
Mary Ann and I make bread pudding for the Shenandoah
Elk Dinners, I have to have cinnamon rolls to make
the bread pudding. When I eat breakfast out, I judge
how good the breakfast is based on how crunchy the
toast is. Some childhood loves of favorite foods
never go away.