EXCERPT FROM BLOG Nov 2009
I grew up believing bread came in a brightly-colored plastic package that delivered an important message about healthy bodies. The bread itself was a tasteless concoction that could easily be rolled into a mushy ball to throw at my sister Linda or lob in the air for my dog Chips to leap up and catch in his mouth. Bread was a joyous toy and a 12 way body-builder all in one.
During college, I met Eileen, an émigré from Eastern Europe who made her own bread. That was my introduction to the notion that bread wasn’t always heavily processed – it could be handmade, hearty, tasty and have character.
That was the time our nation was reawakening to natural breads, the pre-calcium propionate types that didn’t stay edible for weeks at a time. – It was through those breads we learned about culture and flavor – dark Russian loaves, Italian crusts with soft flesh, French baguettes or my college favorite, Kalacs, a Hungarian sweet bread.
Bread became something to savor, to convey history, to tell stories over and best of all, to gather around the table with. I saw how complex bread truly is – well, not in the making, for bread is simple peasant food combining basic ingredients: flour, yeast, water, sugar and time.
The essence of bread is the complicated part. A sustaining force, a building block to stave off hunger, elevated from a minimum table requirement to something worth lingering over and which enhances the eating of a thick winter stew or the last bites of succulent saucy seafood. Bread is at the core of truly living.
And the thing about bread – it’s cheap. A great loaf of bread doesn’t have to cost $10. It can and it does at neighboring stores, but that’s a ruse to make shoppers defy their better judgment. The breads of Tribeca Ovens will restore your faith and you’ll find them at Hiller’s.
A loaf of Tribeca warmed in the oven is soothing, a comfort at the end of the day or at the beginning. I stumbled upon this gem of a company in my unending quest to find unique products with unparalleled flavors that provide my shoppers experiences they can’t find anywhere else. At Hiller’s, we sell sustaining foods that we can enjoy.
Best of all, Tribeca is a bread with a story. Like my own history, Tribeca came from a family with a passion whose members made old, trusted recipes with their hands again and again. The recipes and processes were handed down by the family patriarch more than a half-century ago, as he recreated for Americans the flavors of his youth.
These loaves are made the ways our ancestors made their food – slowly, with time and care, in small batches with hours upon hours for the dough to rise. A leisurely pursuit emanating from passion and love, resulting in a product so delicious, so comforting, that eating it becomes as leisurely as the process of making it.
The crusts are hard, the inside of each slice whisper-soft, and the tang of flavors in each loaf – the garlic loaves contain whole hidden cloves, the olive loaf offers tangy bites of salty goodness, and there are many other flavors to enjoy. Of course, it’s a natural product, hand-shaped, hand-scored.
You know I’m dedicated to Michigan companies. Tribeca Ovens is not from these parts, and still I’m proud to sell their products in my stores. We support Michigan businesses as much as we can, showcasing the superior quality of local entrepreneurs. But when we find a uniquely good product from further away, we welcome it in because at Hiller’s, our dedication is to quality, taste and you.
Even though I never stood as a boy at the kitchen counter, helping my mother knead dough that would become a homemade loaf, I believe bread is the foundation of the family table. In most of the world, it is the staple, the elemental expectation of a meal. In our country, we love and are tormented by bread – whether because we believe it to be the source of our fattening or a soft, smooth indulgence to be ingested over a low-lit table with people we cherish.
A century ago, the Pillsbury Company issued A Book for a Cook with the following quote: “Good bread is the great need in poor homes, and oftentimes the best appreciated luxury in the homes of the very rich.”
Bread is the creation of something satisfying from absolutely nothing. In times like these, when we are at the edges of our comfort and hope for better times ahead, a small affordable indulgence is exactly what is needed to surmount difficulties.
Bread-making is a task that cannot be wholly automated; it requires tending by human eyes and guidance by human hands to reach perfection. It is a reminder that each of us is and will always be necessary.
This kitchen staple juxtaposes the all-important opposites of crumb and crust. It is a food we allow ourselves to eat animalistically, tearing it with our hands. It is one of the world’s oldest prepared foods and one of the few commonalities between cultures. In slang, bread or dough refers to money, something we need to get by.
In churches, the sacrament of the daily bread fuses holy and mundane. When it says in The Lord’s Prayer, “Give us today our daily bread,” it means more than food to eat – it means life itself. In Jewish homes, bread launches holiday meals and becomes the focal point of troubled times, as with the Passover holiday.
Bread has even been the focus of political campaigns: the Bolshevik platform – “Peace, Land and Bread”; the undercurrent of Indian lives – “roti, kapda aur makan” (bread, cloth and house). Bread was the central topic to free trade debates in 19th century Britain and it played a starring role in the Magna Carta.
And yet, it is a food and not even a decadent one! Bread – so basic, so inconsequential, so essential. It is basic chemistry and mere sustenance. It is art and endeavor, backbone and accessory.
The culinary expert M.F.K. Fisher once said, “The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.”
I see it in much the same way. In these unprecedented times, I believe we will persevere, if only we have the patience to let the yeast ferment and allow the dough enough space, time and warmth to rise.
Tribeca Ovens artisan breads. Of course you’ll find them at Hiller’s.