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Courting bread

Courting bread Courting bread

The Table

Sally Rasmussen

Courting Tom was a drama in three acts. Or was it a comedy? I’ll let you decide.

The first act was the all-important opening sequence: Frumpy middle-aged spinster moves back to the Northwoods to help her aged parents at their remote cabin. She grows ever-more-interested in the mysterious, melancholic fifty-something IT professional who lives alone a mile down the wooded lane. But how shall she express her interest in a manner that will shield her from the embarrassment of a potential rejection? She hits on a solution: bread. She would just nonchalantly explain that she had been making a large batch of bread anyway out in the woods, with no electricity, using a tiny gas stove. If he didn’t care for the dark round loaves, he could feed it to his dogs — it really was of no consequence to her. Brilliant! So what if he made a joke about somebody leaving cow patties on his doorstep. The ball was in his court, now. He could treat it as a simple neighborly act, or he could figure out some safe way to respond in kind.

Fortunately for our heroine, the lonesome IT professional was already intrigued by her decision to spend the winter alone in the little cabin in the woods after her parents had left for the season. Perceiving the gift of bread for the opening that it was, he introduced the second act: the audition. This took the form of his invitation for her to stop by his house every other Sunday. He emphasized that it was to be no more often than that. And the refreshments would consist of nothing more than a heated up frozen pizza. Furthermore, he made clear, his interest was only in supporting the spinster in what he saw as the useful experiment of over-wintering in the 1940s era cabin.

Our heroine was willing to take what she could get, so every other Sunday she strapped on her snowshoes to trek down the snowbound lane to his house. They ate mediocre pizza while he discoursed on existential shamanic views concerning the nature of reality. She was kind to his dogs. Winter passed. Her parents arrived with the spring, which the stage for the third and final act: The Test.

The lonesome IT professional had known and liked her parents for several years, so it was natural for him to suggest that she bring them down to his home for supper to mark their return. The spinster helped with making an unremarkable stir fry dinner, then turned to the table and saw her parents seated on one side, the lonesome IT professional on the other. She paused, sensing the drama of the choice before her. Then she took her place by his side, and their relationship flowered from that moment until the fall, when she announced their pending marriage to her parents in the little cabin. To which her father replied, “Well, I guess that ends the speculation.” And her mother responded, “Now I can die in peace!”

And that is the tale of how a homely lump of dough began the story that brought two people together and set them on the path of the life they were meant to live. People who know bread understand how plausible this is. The recipe was one of my mother’s, for Swedish Rye. Tom and I call it Courting Bread.

Courting Bread


½ cup warm water 2 teaspoons sugar 2 tablespoons yeast ½ cup rye flour Stir together, cover and set aside in a warm place. Combine in a heavy pot: 2 cups water 2 cups milk 2 teaspoons salt ½ cup brown sugar ½ cup molasses 1 tablespoon oil 1 teaspoon anise seeds 1 teaspoon fennel seeds Heat to boiling, then set aside to cool to lukewarm. Once it has cooled, stir in the yeast mixture, then add: 5 cups rye flour 7 cups white wheat flour Knead the dough for 10-15 minutes. Rye dough will still be sticky. Put in a large greased bowl, cover and set in a warm place to rise until it has doubled. Rye bread takes longer to rise--probably an hour and a half. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, knead it for a few strokes, then divide in four equal pieces. Shape into round loaves and set them on a large greased baking sheet. Cover and leave to rise about an hour. Bake at 325° for an hour to an hour and a half.

Sally Rasmussen lives in rural Taylor County with her husband, Tom.