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Bread Baking Then And Now

Bought bread was nonexistent in our home when I was a child. My mother baked all the bread we ate and the delicious golden loaves were cooked in her wood range. The aroma of fresh bread, buns and cinnamon rolls, which were ready for us when we came home from school, will remain forever in my memory.

There was nothing quite like a wood range for baking. One had to have the right heat for the bread to bake properly without burning on the outside before it was done in the centre. On the days that the fire was too hot and the crust burnt, we just trimmed the charred crust off and ate the delicious bread inside. With practice, Mother learned to have the right amount of wood in the stove and baked the bread to perfection. There were, however, the times when the wood was not seasoned properly, and one had to tend the fire accordingly.

Mom used yeast cakes versus the yeast granules I purchase today and the cloth sacks of old have been replaced with paper sacks. We always bought 100-pound bags of flour years ago, where today the largest size I can buy is the 20-kg paper bag.

Flour used to be purchased in cotton sacks from the grain elevator in town. These sacks were white at first, stamped with the flour company’s logo and information. When the flour was gone, Mom bleached the printing out of the bag and used the sack for things such as tea towels, pillow cases, aprons, straining fruit for jelly and straining milk before

APPEALING AROMA: There is nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked bread.

separating the cream from the milk. Sacks could also be sewn together to make sheets or feather tic covers or embroidered for runners and doilies.

You can imagine how pleased we were when the flour sacks eventually came printed and coloured. The patterns were varied and we never knew what interesting sacks would be available. I can remember Mom making a point of going with Dad to town to pick out her own sacks whenever we needed flour. These sacks made prettier articles than the white ones and Mother made a set of curtains for the kitchen from the flowered bags.

There aren’t many collectibles from that era, when practical was the way of life. Unfortunately, no matter what the bags were used for, they eventually wore out and became rags until discarded, so they were seldom saved. Although I don’t buy my flour in cloth sacks anymore, I can still purchase sugar or flour bags to use for tea towels. They are durable and are a link from my past.

The bread I bake is good, but it will never replace those wonderful golden loaves my mother pulled out of the old wood stove oven.

– Joanne Rawluk writes from Gypsumville, Manitoba

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