The Truth, Mainly - 02/01/1993

High-tech bread erodes virtue, tasty too
by Leon Satterfield

When male idealism and devotion to duty come up against female pragmatism, it's no contest. The apples were just hanging there and it had been a while since breakfast, so Eve did eat thereof, divine injunction be damned.

"Here," she said to Adam, licking her lips. "You have one too."

What I really wanted for my birthday, of course, was one of those nifty little gadgets that clip hair out of the inside of your nose. The Nifty Little Gadget mail-order catalogues around our house are full of them. You stick one up your nostril, push a button, and voila! no more nose hair. One of the catalogues said their deluxe model will even work on ear hair if you stick it in your ear.

"You want something that silly," my wife says, "you send off for it yourself. I don't want my name on the order. How about a nice bread-making machine?"

"The nose-hair gadget is only $6.99 plus postage," I say. "Bread machines cost more."

"We'll take it out of my half of the joint account," she says. "Don't be such a tightwad."

"You're the one," I say, "who claims you can't always tell if my nose hair is growing into my mustache or if my mustache is growing into my nose. One of these little gadgets would make me a lot more kempt."

She snorts. She doesn't have hair growing out of her nose and she doesn't understand the heartbreak of hairy ears.

She doesn't understand cause and effect either. She likes it when the house fills up with the smell of baking bread, but she doesn't understand why I have to get flour in all the kitchen drawers to make the smell.

"What in the world's going on?" she says when she comes home and catches me making bread. "It looks like ten pounds of flour in a five-pound sack in here."

"I'm worshipping at the altar of Ceres, goddess of grain," I explain. "I'm getting in harmony with my glutens. I'm making bread."

"There's flour in all the drawers," she says, "and you've got bread dough stuck to your nose hair. Or mustache. Whichever it is."

"You can't make an omelet without breaking an egg or two," I say, "and you can't make bread without getting flour in a drawer or two. Feel these glutens."

I whang the dough onto the bread board in front of her and she disappears in a cloud of flour.

"You're getting a bread machine for your birthday," she says when she reappears, "whether you want it or not."

"I want a nose-hair clipper," I say, "and I ought to get what I want. It's my birthday."

"That's not what you used to tell the kids," she says. "Gifts should reflect the values of the giver not the givee, you told them. Then you'd give them a book on the Brooklyn Dodgers."

"Cultural literacy," I say. "I had a parental obligation to get them in touch with the icons of our civilization. But bread machines are decadent. They're for yuppies. I'm no yuppie."

"Nobody's going to mistake you for one," she says. "Yuppies don't have hair growing out their ears."

So on my birthday, I get a bread machine.

"Surprise!" she says.

It's made by a Japanese electronics company and the owner's manual is published by the Tower of Babel Press. It has sentences like "It is recommended that the amount of bread flour is measured by weight method. The measuring cup is just reference for bread flour." But the pictures show me how to put all the ingredients into the little box inside the big box, then set the timer so the bread will be ready by breakfast.

I keep waking up during that first night listening to the little grunty noises the machine makes as it kneads the dough—a noise that reminds me I'm not living up to my Baptist work ethic. About 4 a.m. I fall into a guilt-ridden sleep and have a dream vision. Ceres is in it, dressed in a costume that makes her look like a loaf of cracked wheat.

"Kneadst thou thine own glutens in the sweat of thy face," she says, wagging a floury finger at me and speaking King James English. "Let not thy bread-machine kneadst them or thy yeast shalt surely stink in thy nostrils and thy crust crumble into little bitty crumbs."

She says it from inside the Mt. Olympus Bakery and Deli where they make the food for the gods. It smells heavenly.

And it's the smell that wakes me up. That part is no dream. Our house is full of it.

My temptress wife is already in the kitchen with a pot of coffee and the brand new loaf of crusty bread. She's halfway through the first slice, a little butter and strawberry jam stuck to the corner of her mouth. She pours me a cup of coffee, puts butter and jam on a second slice, and hands it to me.

"Here, you hairy-eared rascal," she says, licking her lips. "You have some too."


Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.

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