Begin with Bread
You have to start somewhere
and I was perfectly content
with white bread and butter.
I adopted rituals early.
After buttering my toast,
I used the cinnamon and sugar dispenser
to draw a giant Z for Zorro.
I considered a challah
as beautiful as a bouquet of flowers.
I had reverence for it,
just as I revered the loaf of sourdough
I lifted from the outdoor cooling racks
of Larraburu on Sixth and Geary.
One of my grandmothers,
the one who filled my pockets
with unwrapped sticky candies
that had been in candy dishes for a generation,
liked to ask which grandma I preferred.
I crafted the perfect answer:
“How can you compare lox and bagel
with a schmear of chopped liver on challah?”
My father had a favorite sandwich:
sliced red onion on pumpernickel.
The coarsely-ground dark rye
was too dense for my early taste,
and I shied away from a sandwich
that called for mouthwash.
After leaving home, banana bread
became a thing for a minute,
along with its cousins zucchini and pumpkin.
There was also cornbread from a cheap mix.
Although it stuck to the bottom of the Pyrex pan,
I carved out one crumbly square after another.
It went well with the eternal chili.
whole wheat became ubiquitous.
Texture and nuance gained value,
Not to speak of the health benefits.
Most importantly, a sandwich on whole wheat
made us feel genuine.
Next came a procession of whole grains,
dubbed with the solemn honorific ancient grain.
Barley, buckwheat, einkorn, emmer, kamut,
khorasan, millet, rye, spelt, and teff,
the smallest of grains.
Even the names sounded ancient.
Now we stand in bread lines
not because we are hungry,
but for a chance to get the last
kamut miche, pocked with walnuts,
if not a butter-dripping einkorn fougasse,
with orange zest and Kalamata olives.
It’s been said that a single loaf of ancient grain
not only becomes a badge of our sophistication,
but it returns us to the earth,
transforms us into environmentalists,
and, ultimately, realigns us with our better selves.
—excerpt from The Daily Feast, poems by Bart Schneider, paintings by Chester Arnold, published by Kelly’s Cove Press, Berkeley, October 2022. kellyscovepress.com