Thursday, January 8, 2009

Babci and bread

Yesterday, I wrote about Babci's love for carrots, which led her to a minor childhood rebellion. Well, when I started chatting with my mum, she told me another naughty-Babci story. In this story, though, there was also an element that I really admired: pushing the limits of cultural presuppositions!

Apparently Zoshka, a middle child in a family of four, three sisters and one brother, was a bit of a impish little girl. She told my mother that when she was a little girl, probably no older than eight years old, she and the neighbourhood children befriended a lady who had recently moved to their village as a young bride. There was something about this woman that appealed to Babci and the other children, so they would often go over to play at her house. Apparently, though, from a grown-up's perspective, there was a lot to pity in this woman's demeanour and life situation. First of all, she apparently wasn't very well brought-up. She didn't know how to make bread! Second, apparently, she had not married well. She and her husband were quite poor, possibly even the village charity case.

But Zoshka didn't care about these things - she probably didn't even notice - so she often went around this lady's house and brought her friends with her. And Babci just so happened to really like this woman's bread. The newlywed may not have known how to bake, but as a dedicated young bride, she still tried. She would bake her bread, but she couldn't master the art of getting bread to rise and stay risen. So when she took it out of the oven it collapsed. Collapsed bread is very doughy, thick and chewy. Ymmm, chewy! Zoshka loved the chewy bread, so when the poor uneducated young bride offered little Zoshka and her friends some bread, she eagerly accepted, and her childhood friends followed suit.

Apparently this went on for several weeks, then one day my mother's Babci, Zoshka's mother found out. We're not exactly sure how. Perhaps one of my Babci's friends got a tummyache and so my Babci, who was very honest as far as mischievous girls go, confessed. Or perhaps lunchtime came one day and my Babci said she wasn't hungry, innocently explaining that she'd already eaten her fill of bread that morning. But my great/grand-Babci asked her daughter why: "Why would you eat that poor woman's bread? We have plenty of bread here at home! She must think I don't feed you at all." And my Babci replied, "But her bread is so much better than your bread, Ma! Hers is nice and thick and chewy, but yours is all light and fluffy." My great/grand Babci probably rolled her eyes as she tried to explain that my Babci still shouldn't eat other people's bread, much less bread that is such a precious commodity for a poor family and not well-made in the first place!

That afternoon, she took her daughter and marched off to the young bride's home. She apologised to her new neighbour and she made her daughter apologise. Then she instructed the woman to never serve bread to my Babci again. Next, she apparently asked the young woman why she made her bread so thick and chewy anyway. At this point, I imagine the young woman bursting into tears out of frustration for trying so hard to make good bread for her husband but having it inevitably collapse as she took it out of the oven. So my Babci's mother found herself giving the younger woman a lesson in breadmaking and everyone was happy. Well, except for the disappointing fact that my Babci's commitment to going against the flow was summarily dismissed as irrelevant.

1 comment:

Robert Martin said...

I LOVE your Babci stories... keep them coming.

Reminds me (unfortunately) of a missed opportunity I had to document the early years of my own grandfather's life. Perhaps I should do as you did and interview my Dad and his siblings...

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