Thursday, September 25, 2008

For love of bread

It's no secret that I don't eat much bread. It's not that I don't enjoy bread—I find it very pleasurable. But I have found that abstaining from bread makes my life simpler, purer, less ridden with cravings and wanton desire (for carbs).

It's not like I haven't had the occasional bread dalliance over the years. A furtive dip into the warm sourdough at Anthony's, a passing fling with with the hearty grain at the Calico Cupboard, a dissolute evening with the bread basket at Piatti's at University Village (and when it's hot, that bread is worth renouncing any vows for).

I guess what I'm saying is that I don't eat around, that I try to save myself for the right bread, so that my bread eating is special, not just casual and meaningless. And most of the bread you meet is so ordinary, so dry and tasteless, with a high glycemic load that sure, gives you a rush of temporary pleasure, but in the end just leaves you empty and wanting something more.

It's been a long time since I've had a really great bread. But I knew that sometime soon this week I would be coming to Wiscasset for a rendezvous with the bread of my dreams. Sure, it would probably be just a one night stand—I'm flying home on Saturday and I have so little time left here—but that doesn't mean I cannot savor every warm, chewy bite.

My hot bread date was at Sarah's Cafe in Wiscasset. The last time we were together was just about two years ago, and I remember thinking, “This is the only bread I ever want to have.” I've been anticipating this for days, planning when I would be able to go there, what I would order, how it would taste. The question was, would it be as good as I remembered? Would it still make my heart flutter and my toes curl?

Tonight was the night (Thursday). I'd prepared myself as well as I could, foregoing lunch (except for a scone and jam at Nervous Nellie's Jams and Jellies), so that I was hungry by 6:30 and ready for my bread encounter without the baggage of a full stomach. My appetite was piqued.

And yet I was nervous. After such anticipation, such vivid memories of the last time, could any bread really live up to my expectations? Perhaps I was asking too much. Perhaps I would have to be satisfied with a pleasant, if not earth-shattering, bread encounter.

And then I was there, walking into the restaurant, sitting at a table by the window, picking up a menu to peruse the options. Sarah's has a big variety of menu items, but I was really only torn between two choices, the lobster roll or the lobster sandwich, each served on a homemade roll or bun. I finally decided on the lobster roll, primarily because it came with a cup of soup. I didn't care so much about the soup, but it would give me access to the homemade bread bar that accompanied the soup. (Actually I didn't know whether my “on-the-side” soup included bread, but I wanted it, so I discretely tucked a couple of pieces—a wheat roll and spinach foccacia—into a napkin and snuck it back to my table.)

The illicit nature of my liaison with the first bread did not make it sweeter. I scarfed it down hastily—worried that a waitress might reprimand me—and I was not really fulfilled by it. Still, that didn't stop me from sneaking back to the bread bar in a quiet moment and sampling a cinnamon coated wheat breadstick.

But perhaps these earlier samplings were just a prelude, warming me up for the main course to come, that is, the lobster salad encased in a warmed, slightly toasted, homebaked roll. I had actually ordered the wheat roll, but when the sandwich arrived on a white roll I hardly even noticed. When I did realize the error, I had already taken a delicious bite, and could hardly reject the sandwich at this point.

And yes, at that moment, the bread was everything I had hoped for and anticipated. Warm, slightly chewy, crunchy on the toasted outside but soft and pliable within—a mouthful of pleasure. So fulfilling that even when most of the lobster salad was gone, leaving just a lettuce leaf and tomato slice on the remaining piece of roll, I enjoyed those final bites just as much as the first ones. For once, the lobster roll was not about the lobster.

When it was finished, I was quite sated. I didn't need, or even want, any more. (In fact, thanks to the bread prelude, I was a little too full.) If I don't come back to Sarah's again before I leave (and I don't see how there will be time), I can live with that. I will miss the bread, I will wish I had more of it, but at least I will have my memories of this one evening together.

And will I be able to resume my chaste, breadless life again, knowing that there is no substitute for Sarah's bread and accepting a cloistered, monastic life, free of bread and other starchy foods?

I think so. Maybe deep down inside I will be hoping to find another bread that gratifies my appetite as well as my very demanding standards. I'm sure I will sample a few, here and there. Someday, maybe next year, I'll be back and spend another evening at Sarah's with the bread. Until then I guess I'll just say....

1 comment:

Laura said...

I'm the same way with bread: I only have it as a special treat. It drives me nuts when, pre-marathon, I plan to eat delicious bread, and then I end up with mediocre bread at whatever restaurant we choose. SO frustrating!