Yesterday, I posted about white bread and how most Amish women make their own. The "go to" bread is a homemade basic white bread. But is it always homemade? The answer is almost always "yes." Almost? When WOULDN'T the bread be homemade? I learned the answer to this question the challenging way. For newcomers to this site, The Amish Cook newspaper column is written by Lovina Eicher, an Old Order Amish mom who lives in Michigan. Prior to Lovina, the column was written by the late Elizabeth Coblentz who only lived a couple of hours away from me in Indiana. I really miss having them only 2 hours away from me, my visits were far more frequent then. I remember when Elizabeth once asked me if I could pick up "some bread" for her on the way to her house. I said "sure" and then my eyes almost bugged out when she told me she needed 100 loaves of bread.
Once I got over the initial shock I gamely plotted my strategy. She was - understandably - price sensitive, no $2.29 cent loaves of 12-grain bread. I think the first time I did this for her I went to Meijer, a regional grocery store chain, and filled up two carts with bunches of bread. After I sheepishly explained to the cashier that I wasn't running some sort of bread smuggling operation (like the teenage cashier really cared what I was doing with the bread), I checked out with my booty of bread. What did Elizabeth need all this bread for?
Turns out she was hosting church services in a few days. If you think about it, each Amish church district has about 25 families, plus maybe 5 to 10 families will come as visitors in any given week. So let's be conservative and say each family has 8 people. Sandwiches are a staple of most "after church meals" among the Amish. So that's going to be at least 400 slice of bread needed, plus people will usually eat the "peanut butter spread" on a slice of bread and some hungry men might have two sandwiches....and no Amish church host wants to be caught low on bread....While you will find plenty of Amish who will just swing into action and start cranking out loaves of bread, that often just isn't a realistic option, especially for older women with children who have married and moved. That's when store-bought bread fills in just fine. Once you stuff a sandwich with meat, mayonnaise and pickles, who notices the bread anyway?:) (don't answer that)
It became a ritual on my visits to Elizabeth before church services, to load up my "breadmobile" as they jokingly began to call my call. Aldi's was a good place to procure large amounts of cheap bread, but they sometimes clamped a limit on how many loaves I could buy. So I eventually settled on a couple of "bread outlets" in my hometown, the Butternut Bread Outlet and the Hostess Bread Store (the photo here is a of a similar Sara Lee outlet) where loaves often ran about 33 cents. I think that was about the cheapest I could ever find them in bulk. Ah, the memories and the odd, odd glances from cashiers....Do you have any bread thrift stores that you like to stock up at? Seems these stores are dwindling in number...