Mom baked eight loaves of bread at a time, as often as needed, for her ever-hungry husband and seven children. We youngsters hoped for white bread, but our parents favored whole wheat. Dad said the whole grain would put hair on our chests—a questionable sales pitch to use with his daughters.
Baking day highlighted our week. When we came home from school to a loaf of freshly baked bread, churned butter, and homemade strawberry jam, we behaved, as our mother once remarked, like young pigs at a trough: squeals of excitement, jostling for position, and dedication to our task.
Sometimes Mom took fistfuls of the rising dough, patted them flat, and dropped them into hot grease in her cast-iron skillet to fry to a golden brown. We called them scones and would have sold our birthright for them.
Other times, she used some of the dough to make cinnamon rolls with lots of raisins. We thought our cousins from Provo, who wrinkled their noses and removed the raisins, were a bit deranged. My younger sister Barbara preferred her cinnamon rolls unbaked, or, in her words, raw. But she liked the raisins, so we forgave her.
If out of bread and short of time, Mom made baking powder biscuits, which we also devoured. Whenever I invited my high school boyfriend to eat with us, he’d ask, “Is your mom making biscuits?” as though they were the only attraction.
Strangely enough, my siblings and I sometimes had trouble eating these same biscuits. On occasion, if we were out of milk or the cow was dry, Mom would substitute bottled tomatoes for the liquid in the recipe. This substitution turned the biscuits a sickly pink, marbled with darker streaks of red tomato.
Chewing on them, I felt vaguely cannibalistic.
When we moved from Lake Shore to Spanish Fork, Blaine watched while Dad took apart the round oak kitchen table to load in the truck. Underneath, a hidden ledge circled the pedestal that supported the top. Blaine claims that when Dad detached the top from the pedestal, twenty-two petrified tomato-laced biscuits fell to the floor, some partially eaten.
Recently, walking through my neighborhood in Craig, I smelled baking bread and instantly became a child again, standing in a patch of kitchen sunlight with hands freshly washed, allowed to punch my fists into a huge batch of risen bread dough, enjoying the smooth stickiness and burping bubbles of its collapse. I laughed, and Mom smiled over at me from the sink.
She was always there. Though she lives in my memories, I miss her every day.
Have any thoughts on Mother’s Day?
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