Mornings are a quiet time, sipping coffee, scratching the dog’s ears, contemplating the coming day. It is normally quite early when I arise, and since I haven’t yet installed the new lighting in the kitchen, a little dark. Which is the way I like it. Peaceful, quiet, and except for the way the dog smells, all is as it should be.
And then I hear the Mrs come down the stairs. The dog glances up at me, thinks about it a bit, and heads off into the other room. I take another sip of my suddenly bitter coffee and offer “Morning dear.” Sometimes she goes for it, but today is not that day.
The Mrs comes from a large family and her Father also came from a large family. Her Grandmother Emma was a farmer’s wife and ran a tight ship in the kitchen. The Mrs spent many happy hours in that kitchen learning the traditional way of cooking. Chief among those daily tasks was making bread. Grandma Emma would knead bread dough by hand, and when she wanted to lay down the law to some unruly farm boys, you really had to appreciate how many hours she spent kneading bread. Old school justice.
My wife, after a somewhat misspent youth, (California, Hippies, enough said) finally came to her senses and started cooking things from scratch. She expressed an interest in making bread and for Christmas 1992, I got her a Hitachi bread making machine. It made awful bread, but it did do one thing right, kneading the dough. Fast forward 23 years later, it’s still kneading.
Homemade bread is a wonderful thing. For a while there, we had a strain of yeast cultivated from our local farm, that made the best sour dough bread. Don’t tell San Francisco. She makes whole wheat bread for our daily sustenance. The old Hitachi kneads the dough and in the oven it goes. Good stuff. However, there are several attributes that you don’t find in store bought bread. You have to slice it yourself and you’ll notice crumbs. Lots of crumbs, because homemade bread does not have dough conditioners. This causes problems further down the line…
Toasters are essential to a complete breakfast experience. Since I have known my wife, she has had, what Freud types call, anger management issues with toasters. Not sure what the deal is, maybe a traumatic experience, somewhere down the line. Don’t wanna know. Just want a quiet morning with happy toast. The trouble starts with crumbs accumulating in the bottom of the toaster. Oh, and having a recalcitrant toaster does not help. Every toaster I have bought in the last 20 some years, has had an attitude problem. Some would say, maybe it’s not the toaster. Uh huh. You’re new around here, aren’t you?
You press the lever down, and it pops right back up, kind of a New York salute. You grit your teeth and shove the lever down again, the toaster hums angrily and maybe gives you toast, but holds on to it. Sort of like when you were a kid and whined to Dad for a couple bucks, and he would finally give in, but would hold on to the bills real tight. I don’t need that in a toaster.
So, I’m sitting there, trying not to draw undo attention to myself. She eyeballs the toaster. I see the toaster tense up a bit and I’m thinking about joining the dog in the other room. She unplugs it and takes it over to the trash bin, tips it upside down and shakes the life and crumbs out of it. Much like you would to a 4th grader for their lunch money, metaphorically speaking. Neither the toaster nor the 4th grader like it much. She gives it a final shake and the cord is lashing around like an angry cat’s tail. It gets slammed back on the counter and plugged in. You’ll notice a few dents and dings in its chrome finish. Don’t go there. The Mrs rams the lever down with no toast. She calls it priming the pump. The toaster’s response is a very angry growl, and the kitchen lights dim a bit. She starts slicing up the bread and as soon as the lever pops up, she shoves it down again, with the bread installed in it. I hear another growl, but kind of muted, like its mouth is full.
If all goes well, I get toast. There have been days when the bread had to go down twice. A passive-aggressive game and very Minnesotan. Mr. Toaster then gets banged up and down on the counter, to improve his attitude. There’s an old Midwestern saying that states “a married couple on their second bottle of Tabasco has had a long marriage.” The joke being, ketchup to them is zingy. That don’t work with us as we eat jalapenos and habaneros on our eggs. Perhaps a better metric for us would be toasters. We’re on our 4th toaster, you do the math. I’ll be hangin’ with the dog in the other room.