Biff America column: The saga of the rolled oat, fruit and toot bread
“Never play cards with a man call Doc. Never eat at a place called ‘Mums.’ Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own.”
That pearl of wisdom, from Nelson Algren, is a reflection of the hardboiled life of the author born at the turn of the 20th century. Other than the fact that one of my favorite places to eat is called Mothers, I mostly agree.
Those of us living and working in ski resorts have our own guidelines and credos that we have learned from residing in a place with a harsh climate, thin air and where others flock to from around the world.
“Never drive east on Interstate 70 in the afternoon or west in the morning.” “Get to the hill early on powder days.” “And for God’s sake, don’t go to the grocery store at 5:30 on a weekend afternoon.”
But, of course, that only works in a perfect world. Sometimes you have to get to the Front Range by early evening. And sometimes the soonest you can get to the hill is mid-day after a big dump. And sometimes there is that one thing that you can’t live without that requires you to grocery shop late on a Friday afternoon.
For the Need of Husks
For me — or more accurately, my mate — the one thing we could not live without was psyllium husks. For most of the world, psyllium husks are used as a laxative to treat constipation; for my mate, it is an ingredient she puts in bread.
I’m not sure where my wife found the recipe for “rolled oat, fruit and toot bread.” I had noticed the index card with the ingredients: oats, pumpkin-chia-flax seeds, dried fruit, psyllium husks, etc., lying around the kitchen for a few weeks, but she never showed much interest. It wasn’t until temperatures got warm and the winds picked up, causing the backcountry skiing to be not so good, that she got it in her mind that she wanted to become Betty Crocker.
So there I was on a Friday afternoon trying to negotiate my cart around a store packed with several hundred families having lengthy discussions in the middle of the grocery aisle trying to decide if they needed whole, skim, soy or 2 percent milk to put on their Cheerios. I was able to locate the oats, chia seeds and nuts OK, but the psyllium husks were as difficult to find as a ski instructor with a pimple. And every employee I asked for help looked at me with pity, assuming I was constipated.
After about 30 minutes of easing around visitors and families who, unlike me, were in no hurry, while discussing exactly how many ply toilet paper was required for a successful vacation, the only item remaining to buy were the husks.
My frustration level was soaring. Yes, I was irritated at my fellow slow-moving shoppers but mostly at myself for breaking the locals’ cardinal rule of not shopping on a weekend afternoon. On my last attempt, I finally found someone who directed me to the baking section.
I returned home a little resentful. I was frustrated with the crowds, a little annoyed that my mate couldn’t wait for a weekday to bake and also angry with myself for breaking my own rule.
All that fell by the wayside when the aroma of a fresh loaf of “fruit and toot” came out of the oven. I was enjoying a slice with some organic honey while sitting in front of a window watching the sunset. As if on cue, just in front of our home, I saw what looked to be a visiting family walking eight abreast down the middle of the street. Had there been any traffic, they would have blocked it, but I live on a quiet street.
Even from a distance, I could see their smiles. From that same distance, I could almost feel their wonder at the beauty of a place I can sometimes take for granted. At that moment, I could feel pride that I was part of a place that could provide an experience that many travel from around the world to enjoy. Any frustration I once felt was gone, replaced by gratitude for my life and appreciation for that family and others who make that life possible.
I watched the family until they passed out of sight, and then I had to run upstairs to attend to some business.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com. Biff’s book “Mind, Body, Soul,” is available at local shops and bookstores or shop.holpublications.com.