bites of life

small bites

Bread and Butter

The best dinner rolls I’ve ever eaten were from the clubhouse of the Warm Springs golf course. The rustic cabin was settled into the hill below the lip of the highway, snuggled into the shadow of the backside of the Sun Valley Ski Resort. These rolls were legendary pocketbook-sized globs of savory fried dough with a crisp and caramel colored shell yielding to a melt-in-your mouth off-white cloudy middle, always served with a generous accompaniment of homemade honey butter. As a burgeoning vegetarian at a steakhouse, these rolls saved my childhood meals. While I might choke down the gristle of a steak I did not want, or nibble on cheese tucked into the creamy, bland folds of a baked potato, I would dig into these rolls like a mountaineer recently rescued from the cliffs above. They would steam slightly as I unfolded the green napkin lining the breadbasket and cracked one open, the butter melting into its pores as I slathered it on.

At some point, I graduated from slathering to simply spreading a light sheen. The breadbasket began to sit at the center of table untouched. I forgot how wonderful really good bread — nutty and warm to the touch, crisp crusted and sour-sponged, topped with sweet, creamy, salt-studded butter — could be.

Instead, I began to see my longing for the breadbasket as a moral failing. My mind stuck on calories. I learned to take stock of my day’s consumption; reviewing, justifying, compensating for my choices. I studied restaurant menus, trying to decipher which entree would gain an approving nod from my father, whose subtle hints at my growing body’s softness echoed through my mind whenever I craved carbs or cream sauce. I tried to model my mother’s perpetual half diet, in which she dissected burritos and undressed fried foods of their batter, leaving a half eaten battlefield of pleasure and remorse on her plate. I could never feel satiated by food so stripped of its intention. Instead, I resigned myself to my failure of willpower, unable to control my urges or deny myself the simple satisfaction of simple carbs.

I have since grown into my body, and learned to value its strength. I returned to the breadbasket with reluctance, but I have decided it is power, not weakness, that makes me reach for a slice of bread. It requires resilience to use food as a way to nourish, not punish, my body. Often, that means giving myself the strong chew of good bread, the sound of hard sourdough crust scraping on the roof of my mouth as I crunch into the first bite, teeth sailing through a thick coating of cool butter before hitting the dense crumb of the chewy sponge. The sensual act of eating is not a moral failing, but a pursuit of pleasure for which we are all hardwired. There’s a reason sustaining things in life are called 'bread and butter'--it’s because they are just so goddamn good.

Please, eat your bread with butter. Savor it. Crunch into the crust and melt the fat with the heat of your tongue. Don't cut it with shame or remorse, leave that off the plate and simply enjoy.


Ariel KnoebelComment