Thursday, December 6, 2007

It's the Smell!

Amish Friendship Bread. Have you ever heard of it?

If you haven't there is some explanation required. It is called "friendship" bread because after days of fermenting milk, sugar, and flour together you share you starter with three friends keeping one for yourself. I suppose you continue to need friends for starter if you forget and let your own ferment too long, or if you have guests and need to make 45 or so breads for their visit thereby not keeping starter, or for that matter giving the extra away.

My first experience with Amish Friendship Bread occurred when I was in high school--years and years ago. It circulated among our little hilltop church. I mean 30ish people including children on a Sunday little church. Think about that not 30families, 30 people and friendship bread starter. Imagine it. We had Amish Friendship Bread for months! Every day! I swore Amish Friendship Bread off FOREVER.

And God laughed.

Last year Maytag families moved to St. Joseph and I made a friend. (OK more than one, but only one this post pertains too.) A friend with Amish Friendship Bread. She had a twist though, fruit and nuts in the batter. I gave in. I ate a piece. Gone was that sick feeling that I had associated with the bread. I ate another piece. I rejected the starter. Oh I wasn't going to be sucked into that! Not me. It was for Sunday fellowship, not for my house.

Then we moved. We were welcomed by a neighbor (the one who later gave Abigail the sticker book) with... Amish Friendship Bread. It infiltrated the walls. Yes, just a loaf no starter, but I knew it was only a matter of time. I was losing the battle. But we ate the bread. I enjoyed the loaf lovingly given. I thanked my neighbor and kindly rejected the offer of starter. My friendship was going to be shown by tubs of cookies and platters of cakes, not with fermented milk, sugar, and flour. Not my love language.

But alas, I have lost the battle. Enjoying coffee with our landpeople/friends, the topic came up. She had been given a bag of starter. I recounted my high school tale of Amish Friendship Bread woe, but having become friends with the bread, I couldn't remember why I swore it off. So I agreed. I would take a bag of starter ten days from that night. The ten days passed and with a slice of warm bread came the bag of starter. It fermented on my counter. I added the required milk, sugar, and flour and mushed away at the bag. It grew fat with the gas of fermentation. I released the gas. Ten days have passed. Currently cooling on a rack in my kitchen is two loaves of Amish Friendship Bread and four containers of starter sit by my refrigerator.

And the sick feeling has returned. I remember, now! I know why I swore the stuff off. It is the smell! The smell of fementation baking with eggs and seasoning. The smell of months and months of starter-go-round. The smell of friendship.

This is why tomorrow I will dump the starter out, I will graciously accept loaves of Amish Friendship Bread into our home and just a graciously refuse the starter. I will give cakes and cookies as gifts of the friendships I treasure and the joining together in the joys and sorrows of those people precious to me. My friendships will smell of baking chocolate chips and oatmeal and apples.

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