Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Legacy of Making Bread

I was baking bread yesterday as a gift for a friend who was visiting from Ohio.  As I was kneading the dough, it came to me how much making this particular loaf was a part of my life and how I got started making bread in the first place.

I grew up in South Lake Tahoe in the 1960's in a small house nestled in the forest by Fallen Leaf Lake.  My Father was caretaker for summer homes there.  He ran away from home and the farm life at 16 once he had visited his Aunt who was running the Bay View Resort at Emerald Bay.  After the war, (WWII) he was working at the Baldwin Estate on Fallen Leaf Lake (Lucky Baldwin, Anita Baldwin ie Santa Anita racetrack).  The caretakers of the estate, Max and Kizzie Gorden, introduced him to my mother who was working there as a baby nurse for the summer.  As the family story goes, they met on the 23rd of June and Married in the Carson City Court House on the 3rd of July.  My mother had no idea of how drastically her life would change.  She was a city girl - grew up in Minneapolis and was living in Arcadia in Southern California.  All of a sudden, she was married to a dyed in the wool mountain man who didn't talk very much and loved living in isolation.  She had never been on a pair of skis in her life and now it was the main mode of transportation 5 1/2 months a year!

Check out Mom, skiing in a dress - 1947
Kizzy Gorden - Baldwin Estate Caretaker Cabin 1947
They lived in a one room cabin with a wood cook stove.  My Dad had been a bachelor for a long time and could cook pretty well but this was 1947 and of course it's a wife's duty to do the cooking.  To the rescue came Kizzie Gorden and her wonderful lessons on how to bake bread in a wood cook stove.  My mother told me stories while I was growing up about how hard it was to adjust to living in that tiny cabin.  For some reason the story of baking bread in a wood fired cook stove resonated with me.

I started learning how to bake bread when I was about 10 years old.  My mom had gone to work at the Post Office so I had a lot of unsupervised time after school.  I pulled the recipe card out of the box - Kizzy's White Bread.  It had a list of how to make the recipe large enough to do six loaves at a time.  I jumped right in and made my first bread and haven't quit since.  We lived in town by then, and had an electric stove but I used to dream about that wood cook stove while I was kneading that bread.  I still have the original recipe card that I copied out so many years ago.  You can always tell the good recipes by the splatters on the card!  I've tweaked the recipe somewhat over the years but it still goes back to Kizzy - that lovely lady who took a city bride and taught her how to "speak wood stove".  Thanks, Kizzy!  I think it's because of you that I ended up living the homesteader lifestyle.  I never got to meet you but you will always live in my heart.

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