Plain Talk about Food

Baking Bread and Secrets Behind the Locked Door

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French Bread

Our old Boarding House in Aberdeen Washington had many bedrooms, two on its bottom floor and six located up a narrow stairway leading to a large landing.

I was four years old when I was deposited there by my philandering mother who was off on one of her many adventures with a newly found ‘uncle’. These new uncles never stayed long enough for me to remember their faces much less their names.

I do remember, however, the one upstairs bedroom in the boarding house…the only one of six with a rusted keyhole lock. And ‘locked’ in my memory is the large rusted key that would magically appear from my aunt’s apron pocket.

Now being an only child, living with an aging Aunt and Uncle and no others

my age for blocks away, I began living my life in an ‘imaginary world’. In this new world I had an imaginary friend, a friend I could talk to and a friend I could ‘imagine with’…and most important, a friend I could explore with.

I became quite resourceful during this time as my elderly aunt, never having had a child of her own, simply didn’t understand the needs of a child, nor had the energy to ‘keep up’ with one, especially me. I was the one when all of the aunts were together, would look at me saying “little pitchers have big ears…meaning children pick up and understand more than one realizes.

It was their custom to meet behind the locked door and discuss ‘family matters’ privately, among themselves…me not included.

Bread-baking day, the day my aunt would be busy baking the bread and rolls for the boarders for the week, became the day my ‘friend’ and I would search for the elusive key that would open the locked door. It was on one of those days, in the afternoon when the delicious smells of baking bread wafted up that narrow stairway, the path to the locked door, that ‘we’ discovered the key. What glorious luck, the key had been left in its rusty lock, somehow forgotten to be removed by my aunt.

As if yesterday I remember turning that key around and around until the lock clicked, and the knob turned as if by magic, and I pushed the door open.

The sunlight filtering into the room from a narrow window, rested on an old RCA Victor Victrola with a stack of records on its top. A small rocker with a crocheted afghan draped on its arm, sat nearby. Scattered around the room were boxes of clothing, books, papers, envelopes and a dusty bookshelf with bric-a-brac and an old mantel clock resting on it, its hands pointing to the time it last ran. Nothing was in that room to pique the interest of an eight-year-old super sleuth.

A lifetime has passed since discovering that rusted key in its lock, and in that lifetime as an adult, I have discovered the secrets, family secrets stored away in that sunlight filtered room in those many boxes, locked away for years; secrets that have shaped my life.

My imaginary friend is no longer with me, but the rocker with its afghan is. The clock, my grandmothers, now sits on my fireplace mantel chiming and striking the hour, reminding me it is time to take my bread from the oven.

I encourage you to make this recipe which is relatively easy and is well worth the effort.

Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at

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