Once there was a community in which most people had been raised on enriched, white, store-bought bread and saw to it that their children were fed the same. The hope was that the children would grow to be big, strong, and well-nourished so they could live productive lives and be a credit to the town. The bread was provided for the children by means of a community tax and was distributed on a regular basis to all community children irrespective of size, shape, or color.
In this town there lived a woman named Matilda, who had three children. She had given the matter some thought and had done some reading and had concluded that she could provide better nourishment for her children by making her own whole-wheat or even white bread. After further thought she decided she would try it out. Now, Matilda was aware that what she was doing was decidedly “odd” and that she might get some flak from her neighbors. She was, however, determined to provide what she viewed as best for her children.
She began to make her own bread and no longer used the Bread Distribution Service. She continued to pay the community tax for bread; and, in addition, bought ingredients for her own homemade bread. Sometimes when Matilda and her children were seen in public during the Bread Distribution Hour, people would ask her, “Why aren’t your children eating?” She tried to explain that she made bread for them and that they ate it with the family, but found that most people thought that was illegal. She begin to fear that people would think her children weren’t being fed (though they looked well-nourished) and that the City Fathers would think she was an abusive parent. She began closing the windows on baking day so the aroma wouldn’t get out of the house and having the children eat their bread during the Bread Distribution Hour so they wouldn’t be conspicuous. She tried to keep a low profile to avoid detection. However, rumor that there were some families making their own bread reached the offices of the City Fathers. The City Fathers decided a law needed to be passed to deal with the situation and define what was legal
There arose a great debate. Some said it was basically the parents’ responsibility and privilege to provide bread for their children. Others said parents didn’t know how to make bread and it should be mandatory that they obtain bread from the Bread Distribution Service. There was some fear expressed that children might starve if there weren’t some guarantee that they were receiving bread at home when their parents took them off the Bread Distribution List.
Some wanted the law to require that the parents go to bakers’ school; some that they have required ingredients for the homemade bread, some that there be a schedule of baking days and assigned times for the eating of the bread.
Eventually, it was decided that the parents who chose to make their own bread needed to submit a recipe card demonstrating that the bread they fed their children would have at least some sort of flour, oil, and liquid. They also needed to be sure to feed their children on a regular basis.
Matilda was elated! She had been afraid that the requirements of the law would be much more detailed and demanding. She recognized that there were those in the city who were violently opposed to the home-baked bread idea and that they would probably seek to have the law changed sometime; but, for the time being, she felt much easier in mind.
She was so used by this time to keeping a low profile in her baking that it never occurred to her that that should change.
This writer how ever thinks that Matilda and other home-bread bakers should let the delicious aroma out to waft over the neighborhood. I also believe it would be beneficial if the community at large became accustomed to the idea and began to learn how tasty and nutritious homemade bread can be. This would, I believe, help to counter the weight of tradition on the side of the Bread Distribution Service should opponents of home-baked bread try to change the present law. People who bake their own bread to feed their children need to work to educate the public as to the beauties and benefits of bread baking!
Author’s Note–Since we lived in North Dakota at the time, where “homemade bread baking” was clearly illegal (until after we had moved away!), I wrote this response:
In another community, to the north of Matilda’s, the sad situation is this: the Bread Distribution Service union is powerful, and for many years has opposed homemade bread baking. Some parents have tried it, anyway, and most would be only too glad to share their recipe cards. Some would be willing to invite the Bread Distribution Service superintendent into their homes on baking day. Some are even willing to submit their children to an annual examination to prove that they are being well-nourished on home-baked bread.
Last year the local Parents’ Association of Home-Bakers made valiant efforts in the city council to get the law changed, but to no avail. The current regulation is that parents cannot bake bread at home for their children unless they hold a valid certificate from bakers’ school–even though Bakers’ School concentrates on teaching institutional bread baking, and would be of little value to parents baking bread at home.
Parents who persist in making their children’s bread at home and refusing to obtain their bread from the Bread Distribution Service are highly subject to legal prosecution. In fact, five such families were recently taken to court and convicted. One of those families, like many others in the past, has moved to a different community where home-baked bread is legal. (One frustration is that the communities directly to the east, west and south allow homemade bread baking.)
But at least three of the families are continuing to bake bread at home, and are definitely keeping their windows open on baking day–in spite of a threatened jail sentence for doing so. Unfortunately, other families who would risk losing their jobs must keep their windows closed and continue to bake bread in absolute secrecy.
So, I would further encourage those who live in communities like Matilda’s where home-baking is possible to keep their windows open so that the delicious aromas may waft even outside the community and influence other less enlightened communities to relieve the oppression of home-baked bread families.
SOURCE: This article originally appeared in the Wyoming Home Educators’ Newsletter, Spring -Summer 1986.
Special Thanks to Ann Murphy for allowing it’s reprinting here.