Several months ago a very kind, thoughtful, senior fellow showed up at our door encumbered with a massive bag of Italian bread. He seemed shy, embarrassed, awkward, and in a bit of a rush and mentioned that he used to have chickens and that his friend, the commercial breadbaker, who’s name appeared on the paper sleeves protecting the loaves, used to give him the day old bread to feed to his chickens. Now chickenless, he somehow came to know of us, and wanting to do his part in the ‘waste-not-want-not’, recycling thing, decided to pass-on the abundance in a neighborly and nostalgic way. We thanked him, profusely, insisting that he take a dozen eggs, but he declined. This then created a bit of a quandary for us. We feed our chickens and ducks organic feed and this ‘supplement’ of white bread was not exactly ‘organic’. (But then, neither were the FEMA baloney and cheese sandwiches on Wonder bread that were ‘donated’ to our birds after Hurricane Irene. I swear that they never developed mold, even after a week or more in the feed-shed!!!! The chickens weren’t crazy about them either.) Furthermore, the chickens can’t quite manage them. They ignore the bread, unless it’s broken up into very small pieces,which is laborious and conflict-inducing if you’re doing this in the presence of the birds. The Cuisinart can be put into service to render the loaves into crumbs, but this just seems like a lot of work for free,stale white bread. This ritual of the anonymous bread supply left on the doorstep continues with monthly, or bi-monthly regularity. The turkeys and ducks can manage larger pieces and, now, seeing this flinging about of bread as a sort of game, seem to enjoy the sport of dashing around and winning the prized offerings. I know that what I’m about to say will sound hugely ungrateful and callous, but, the distribution of these massive quantities of stale Italian bread that are left with us in a spirit of generosity and cooperation have become a responsibility that I feel burdened by.
So, tonight, running out of ideas, tired of the pressure of entertaining the birds with valuable time, and, in a spirit of effective time management as well as perpetuating the ‘waste-not-want-not’ approach to rural living, I prepared bread pudding for Andrew, with chocolate chips, dried cherries, cinnamon, nutmeg, eggs and skim milk. I also threw a few of the loaves into the freezer for future culinary or avian adventures; croutons, bread crumbs, winter poultry entertainment, etc… (We, ourselves, are not so particular about what we ingest, although we should be). The mystery breadman remains a mystery. He is kind, thoughtful, considerate and generous with his gifts. The birds appreciate the entertainment, and we thank the gentleman for his efforts. I’m hoping that the next time he shows up I will have a nicely prepared bread pudding or a flavorful bag of croutons to offer him.