When I was living on the farm we grew almost all of our own food. We planted our own wheat and then harvested it with a pull type combine hooked up to our antique John Deere 70 tractor. We had a hand cranked fanning mill (another antique) to clean the wheat which was quite the operation. One of the bigger kids would crank the giant handle to produce the wind and shaking needed to send that wheat through the fanning mill screens and discard all the impurities. Well almost all. Inevitably there would be little bits of “stuff” that was the same size and shape as the wheat berries that would escape the cleaning process.
With our home grown organic wheat berries in hand, I would get out the wheat grinder that we had borrowed long term from a friend and would commence grinding the flour for the bread I made just about every other day. I would set my two little girls up on the counter and together we would pick out the little balls of mud-turned-dirt, the pieces of chaff and foreign seed matter that escaped the fanning mill. One of the girls would have the job of keeping the grinder fed by pushing the wheat kernels down the dime sized chute with a chopstick. It would stop grinding if someone didn’t do this every 10 seconds or so. It was a huge grinder with stones about 6 inches across. A heavy beastly thing. My one daughter was terrified of it because it was so loud, like an airplane in the kitchen she would say!
After we ground our wheat, I would take a giant stainless steel bowl and mix up our bread by hand. I had to stand on the little stool Dale had made for the children in order to be tall enough. My recipe made 6 loaves at a time and the lump of dough was quite large to knead. It weighed about 6 pounds. When my girls got to be about 4 or 5, I would get them involved in learning how to make the bread, hoping to work myself out of a job! It was such a relief when my oldest daughter, around 8 years old, could do it all by herself. Instead of having to take time out to make the bread every other day, I could just ask her to do it. And sometimes I did! I used to call her my bread machine.
Of course, I was not allowed to have an actual bread machine.
I don’t really remember any reason why other than my husband didn’t like the loaf to have a hole in the middle from the mixing apparatus. Oh yes, and the texture was not uniform when the bread was made in an electric bread machine. I didn’t push it, I just accepted that other people could have that but not me. I was used to being treated like a teenage daughter by my husband. I had no idea what it was like to be an equal partner.
We had been home churching for many years and yet we came into contact with a wonderful group of people in a Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in the city about an hour and a half from our home. We started attending there and it was wonderful. During that time, I heard these other mothers-of-many, who made their own bread to feed their families, talk about a machine they all had. It was a Bosch Universal Mixer. I had never heard heard of it. It seemed that the Bosch, as it was affectionately referred to, was a powerful mixer that you could dump all the bread ingredients into and it would mix and knead your dough to perfection while you did something else. I was thrilled to hear about this. Until I found out how much they cost. Way out of our price range. I told myself that this was just another one of those things that I could not have. Oh well….
I became pregnant with my 10th child. At this church, they would have a baby shower for every mom when she was having her first child after becoming a part of the fellowship. Didn’t matter that is wasn’t your first baby period. Just your first one after you came to their church. All the ladies wanted to pitch in and buy me my very own Bosch! I was thrilled and excited and amazed that they cared about me enough to want to do that! They told me about it before the baby shower to make sure that it was something I would want. Did I ever want it! I was really excited when I told my husband about the generous gift the church ladies wanted to give me.
He wasn’t. He said, “You can’t have a Bosch until our youngest daughter knows how to make bread by hand. I don’t want them to be dependent on a machine.” That was it. I was not allowed to have this time saving, work horse until my yet unborn daughter was old enough to make the bread with her little hands.
Now, my husband was a very talented carpenter. He could take a piece of wood and turn it into a thing of beauty with all the tools he had in the shop. He had power saws and hand saws and power drills and brace and bit drills. The man had a very well stocked shop full of the tools required for the jobs he needed to do in the best and easiest way. I tried to point out to him that there was no requirement that he only use a hand saw to cut every board until our boys all knew how to do the same. But that didn’t seem to be the same thing to him. He said that he needed those tools to support our family. I guess what I was doing wasn’t supporting our family? I don’t know. But being the submissive wife, I called the sweet ladies and said no thank you for the Bosch. I said my husband preferred that I not have one until the younger girls can make bread by hand. I was humiliated and dominated once again. I didn’t think I had a choice. I didn’t think I had any voice in the matter. No meant no and that was that. Beaten down, I went to the kitchen and got out the giant silver mixing bowl and added my tears to the family’s daily bread.
More from Laura: