Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Snowy weather sparks a childhood memory


     I am a sentimental person. White bread and whole milk bring me to tears.
     Every time the weather forecaster makes a dramatic announcement that a pending blizzard is racing toward us—call it a mega storm if you wish—I step back into my childhood, my stomach starts to shake and I mumble, “I need to stock up on white bread and whole milk.”
     The truth of the matter is that I don’t use white bread and whole milk any longer, and I haven’t for years.
     The feeling of impending doom is illogical. (I wonder if I have become my mother—My husband nods his head here in affirmation.) I still see her running around in circles grabbing her coat and purse before heading to the corner grocery store faster than a fox on a predatory hunt with life and death consequences.
     Goodness, gracious. If the supply was low on the shelves, my mother returned with her paper bag overflowing— just in case. She worried that the store would be sold out the next day. (How much bread and milk can a family of four consume in a twenty-four hour period?)
     I will interject that my mother was famous for her delicious French toast and she made a wicked bread pudding—you guessed it— from leftover bread and milk.
     Hopefully, being stuck in the house for days on end is long gone. The residents of our entire street ran outside when they heard the low rumbling sound of the giant snowplow clearing the path—not all the time could we get the door open—like a Super Bowl victory celebration. We’d cheer the driver for ending our isolation, and he would nod back from his high seat. That was a camera-ready classic Kodak moment, and my mother would be shooting pictures with her Brownie to record in our album.
     You’d think that we had not seen each other for weeks on end, and cabin fever had held us captive. Just how much of our indoor cowboy antics did our parents endure? We were redirected to putting that pent up energy into building a snow fort—after we helped clear the sidewalk of the elderly shut-ins.
     Today, you will find me bundling up in layers and dealing with the blowing snow, shoveling and winter driving. Sure, I grumble like the rest and dream of warmer places to reside. The weather is an excellent conversation starter nine times out of ten.
     My queasiness surfaces when the media goes into a panic mode, and wants me to follow right along with them. I flip channels for a better, more accurate forecast. I Twitter. I text commuters that I assume are in “the know.” Very often these storms fizzle, and never amount to much.
    The bread of my youth was Wonder Bread. The plastic wrapping was a kaleidoscope of color resulting in the iconic red, yellow and blue balloons featured on the logo. Friends tell me that their family bread was Millbrook.   
       Wonder Bread was first sold in 1921, and in 1930 it became one of the first to be packaged pre-sliced in the factory. This led to the popular phrase, ‘the greatest thing since sliced bread.’
     I am of the generation that lovingly refers to a sandwich as a “foldover”—today a wrap of whole wheat, multi-grain or a pita pocket. One piece of bread slathered with peanut butter and jelly would “do” me, a fairly active kid.
     As for whole milk, well, I use fat-free, or 1% on occasion. The fresh supply delivered by the milkman to the doorstep quit years ago. Supermarkets got the housewife hooked, and the rest is history.
     Frugal women diligently saved those plastic wrappers, and recycled with sandwiches tucked inside lunch pails.
       The bags also made excellent snow boot liners. Those rubber boots were tough to get on and off over our shoes without help from the slippery wrappers. My first grade teacher kept an extra supply in her bottom desk drawer for emergencies along with bobby pins, rubber bands and mittens.  
     During the 1940s, Continental Baking began adding vitamins and minerals to Wonder Bread as part of a government-sponsored program of enriching white bread to combat diseases. The bread had been notoriously deficient in vitamin and mineral content.    
     Wonder was also the first national bread brand to feature open dating as well as nutrition information on its packaging.
     In the 1950s, Wonder Bread further expanded advertising of its nutrient enrichments. The company sponsored Howdy Doody with host Buffalo Bob Smith telling the audience, "Wonder Bread builds strong bodies 8 ways. Look for the red, yellow and blue balloons printed on the wrapper."
     By the 1960s, Wonder Bread was advertised with the slogan, “helps build strong bodies 12 ways,” referring to the number of added nutrients.
    In 1986, the lower-calorie Wonder Light bread was introduced.
     Today, my friends play along with my white bread and milk obsession. They offer to bring up a supply to the “hinterland” when they come visiting in the summer just to get a rise out of me.
     And I do look at the bread shelf at the store longingly—mostly for local Monk’s bread—when I shop in the winter? Yes, I do it out of force of habit, and the comforting thoughts about my parents.
      Now, if I only could remember what the newscaster is naming the storm scheduled for the coming week, I’d relax into winter’s fickle ways.