Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I Loaf You

Her table was waiting, but that’s another story. The other guests had already arrived and seated themselves comfortably as Carole threaded her way through the maze of fine diners, her Pugliese tucked safely, but for all to see, under her arm, snug almost, up there in her pit.

“Thank you,” she said, as the waiter pulled out one chair into which she put the loaf of bread. The waiter scooted the loaf up against the edge of the table, until just its finely dusted crust looked over the edge.
The waiter smiled, pulling out another chair for Carole. “A fine Pugliese,” he said, as Carole brushed speckles of flour from her arm and looked warmly at her fresh baked loaf.
“With olives,” she reminded him as her finely clothed figure tucked and bent just as the waiter gave her chair a gentle push.
“Of course, “ replied the waiter.

One of the diners--an as not yet introduced guest-- flagged the waiter as he backed away from the table. “Could we get some bread,” he asked.
The table froze, all eyes on the uninitiated guest. The waiter looked at him and said, “But there is bread at the table sir. A fine Pugliese.” and just then he caught a glance from Carole and he added, “With olives,” and with that the waiter left the table guests to stare at one another.

Inasmuch as he could, the Pugliese with olives said nothing, but instead, looked across the table, admiring, from his point of view, the underside edge of the fine china before him, and the hungry eyes upon him.

Carole dabbed at a precious crumb from the Pugliese, studying it for a second before letting her tongue take it away.
She of all people knew her Pugliese had olives and she reveled for a moment in it’s delectable fine place in the world of breads.
The guests stared at Carole’s Pugliese, each slowly grasping their butter knives as Carole’s attention slipped inwards to other loafs lost.
Her last loaf nagged at her. He was a carelessly attained multi-grain that should have been factory sealed in shrink wrap and freshness-dated for three years, but instead pulled off a fresh baked look, by somehow ending up in a tastefully designed and somewhat tailored brown bag.

She was prone to falling for a well designed package and that multi-grain player had her going for a while.
He took her for the lumpy cold hump of dough that she could sometimes be. She needed him and he kneaded her and he had her right in the palm of his seedy hand, or so he wished, because he was a loaf of bread after all. And a low-life loaf at that, having almost ended up just plain wheat and sliced (or “serrated,” as he preferred to call it) and shelved next to the lowliest of lows -- the white breads.
Yes, the white breads, with their smooshy, preservative laden smiles and deceptively thin heels. But a heel was a heel in his book of bread and this multi-grain who showed such disdain, even for his own heels, wasn’t about to spend his career loafing around on some tempered steel bread rack, getting cozy with some sliced up ditzy in an opaque and grossly patriotic wrapper of red white and blue. He wanted the bag and the basket and a chance to be held and sniffed and carefully placed next to the fresh bouquet of table flowers and the over-priced bottle of extra-virgin olive oil.
He knew that being anywhere near the white bread could end him up smothered in peanut butter and jelly or facing another belch while pressuring a cold bologna and mayo into the gastric path of a bread neophyte.

But Carole wasn’t asleep at the cart. She could see right through his filmy wrap and she caught onto his game and his machine perfect sliced edges. She wanted her bread to have a few rough ones. To know how to take a knife. How to be strong on the outside and yet warm and sweet on the inside, or sour, as she sometimes preferred them, and that multi-grain wasn’t what she wanted. She left him at the check-out stand and never looked back.

This Pugliese had a name worth pronouncing in mixed company. Eyes lit up at the sight of the two of them. And he had olives. What more could she ask for?
A fine Italian loaf, round, flat, dusted just right and hot out of the oven. Heat was a factor for her and for others.
She could hear the talk as they walked by. “He’s hot,” they’d say. Or “He looks so hot I could eat him. I just want a little nibble, just a tease. He could bake my bread any day. Oh would I like to smother him in some of mama’s garlic spread.”
The comments were endless, coming from the back stabbing bread lusting aficionados and the common dinner role heathens alike. They all wanted Pugliese or one of his lusty, tasty, good with olive oil, brothers.

Carole’s mind snapped back to the present and to the table of dull bladed, hungry -eyed diners.
She could feel the tension and snapped at them “ No one’s gonna cut my loaf but me,” she said.
“I could use a good loaf like that,” murmured one of the guests.
“How much for the precious Pugliese, said another. “I’ll fill him full of cheese and see how he likes it.”
“You realize he’s not even old enough to be a sandwich yet,” said another guest.
Carole flashed her butter knife at the table of hungry eyes. “It’s a Pugliese, “ she hissed, as she stared them down, “ He doesn’t need cheese or meats or condiments.”
She snatched the Pugliese up and held it close, squeezing so tightly that a puff of white cloud burst forth then settled on her nerved features. “This loaf is the love of my life,” she hissed. Everyone recoiled slightly, wincing in shared pain with the tightly squeezed loaf.
The guests couldn’t argue and settled back in their chairs, content to choose other appetizers and to want other things, less desirable, such as each other.
The Pugliese said nothing.


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