On Friday Pete came up, and brought with him bread he had baked; a kindness and wholesome deliciousness I responded to with a choice of Benecol or Flora Light. We’d had butter in the week before, but the chipper smile of its being (very) locally produced was wiped off our faces by the stench it emitted after just two days.
Over the bread, I told Pete a story.
Eleven and at big school (as so many tales begin), homework came suddenly, cruel and unusual, and the biology teacherset us the task, over the weekend, with a parent, of baking a loaf of bread from scratch. Lesson-wise, presumably, something to do with yeast.
Ours was a sliced-white household, dispensed and Stork’d upon surfaces made of the best thing since wood; making, baking bread would require Mum to connect with some unknown floury ancestry, and an aisle in Boots unvisited. But connect and visit – and knead and check and fret – she did, and gave up a Saturday to my homework.
The resultant loaf was a visual triumph. Monday I took it to school, wrapped in a yellow-flowered towel.
The teacher had forgotten she’d ever set the task. The majority of boys had either banked on this, or couldn’t be arsed, or had started to be arsed then had their arses kicked for bringing such a flaming liberty of a homework request back home.
Three of us, of whom one had reminded the teacher, sent up our loaves to the front. Mine was inspected, jiggled and declared to be shop-bought, so very well baked it was; and despite some high-frequency protestations, I was unable to convince her, or my classmates, that it was entirely made from scratch, by my mum, with me leaning over the bowl.
A mangled rustic effort – this in the days before rustic was good – now in my memory the shape and shades of a tremendous turd, was held up as the suddenly-this-is-a-competition winner. Mine (Mum’s) was juggled back through the class to me, with a few holes plucked in its flanks of magnificent and misaccused beige. And thence back in its towel and under my arm, like a (more) surreal ventriloquist’s act; baking the way for a Reeves and Mortimer sketch to come.
At break I dropped it in the playground – else it made a bid to be free – and the loaf became what anything dropped to the ground must become; amazing how quickly kids can form themselves into two football sides.
Words and picture © Steve Mitchell, Fisher Lane, 2013