Cooking, Essays, House and Home, Memoir, Travel

Bread is my DOC (Drug of choice)

Pain au levain, a French bread
You just can’t find a decent loaf of bread in most American bakeries. | Pain au levain, a French bread (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like bread. I always have. If you mention my bread lust around my mother, she’ll nod her head and say, “Yes, she always did like her bread.”

When I was a kid, my parents did most of our grocery shopping at Aldi, where the bread was mass-produced and over processed. We usually ate white bread because it was the cheapest, but once in a while, my dad would bring home several loves of oat bran bread when it was on sale and stash it in the deep freezer.

The oat bran bread was my favorite. It never lasted long, because I would sneak into the kitchen several times a day and snag a handful of slices that I would take outside with me and chew on while I wandered around the woods on our property. For some reason, I liked to pull the oat bran bread apart and roll it into little balls before I ate it.

Yeah, I know. I’m kind of a weirdo.

When I was a teenager, I found a bread recipe in one of my mom’s old cookbooks and began making homemade bread. It was so good, but so much work. I would pull it out of the oven and slather butter all over the top of it and eat it while it was still hot. I could eat an entire loaf by myself if no one else was home when it came out of the oven.

At seventeen, I went to Europe for two weeks. I was in heaven at breakfast, where every single hotel I stayed at provided fresh bread rolls with equally fresh fruits and other morning goodies. There wasn’t a single bowl of cold cereal in sight. You just can’t get breakfast like that at hotels in the U.S. Heck, you can’t even buy bread like that at bakeries here, at least not where I live.

On my first morning in Portugal, one of my travel buddies laughed at my attempt to cut into a bread roll with a butter knife. “You don’t cut bread like that here,” he explained. “You pull it apart with your fingers.” He took up his own roll and cracked it in half with his hands. The crisp outside crunched as he broke it open. The soft insides came apart like the tufts of a fluffy cloud. Someday, I want to eat my way across Europe and try every type of bread they make.

This morning, I went to my town’s “elite” grocery store, where the groceries are at least twice as expensive as they are at the Wal-Mart grocery and three times as expensive as our newly-opened Aldi (thank the grocery gods for Aldi!!) I don’t normally shop at this particular grocery store because I can’t afford it. But there are a couple of items I have to buy there because they aren’t available anywhere else. One of these items is my favorite mass-produced bread. (El Rey corn tortillas is another.)

I would eat bakery bread every day, if it was an option. But it’s not, so I settle for this Dakota Style 12-Grain loaf from Country Hearth. My kids won’t touch it. Like most American children, they are addicted to their over-processed white bread and refuse to eat anything that even remotely looks as though it might contain any ingredient that was actually grown out of dirt. I exaggerate, but only a little. My younger son actually likes his fruits and veggies, but my teenager? Forget about it!

Anyway, this morning I ran to County Market to buy a loaf of my special bread because that’s the only store in town that carries it. Usually when I shop there, I’m getting one or two other items at the same time, so I never really noticed how much money I was paying for this bread. But this morning, this was the only thing I bought, so I was a little shocked when the cashier told me my total. As it turns out, I’ve been paying almost $4 a loaf for this bread! The cheap white stuff I buy for the kids is usually around $1.

“Am I crazy to spend this much money on bread?” I thought.

Then I reminded myself that I don’t drink or smoke or do drugs. I don’t get my hair and nails did, aside from maybe a quick trim once or twice a year. As far as vices go, I suppose my bread addiction is fairly harmless. Yes, bread is my DOC. I want the good stuff, and I’m willing to pay for it.

What is the one item you are always willing to overpay for? Please share in the comments below.

~Amanda L. Webster

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