Bread Bag Memories

The other day as I was cleaning up my kitchen, this scene on my counter almost made me gasp aloud.

Bread Bags

I know it doesn’t look like much, and don’t bother spending your time trying to figure out the Spanish words on the bread bags, because that’s not the important part of this post.  (However, if you’re like me and are now stuck on that thought, the bag in the middle says “Multi seed & Oat Bread… Golden Line.” )

I hardly ever buy pre-packaged loaves of bread.  That’s partly because this kind of bread was not available when I first came to Huaraz 21 years ago.  No more toast and jam for me.  No more toasted cheese sandwiches or French toast in the morning.  But actually, it wasn’t that bad, because why would anyone want to eat long-shelf-life, full-of-preservatives bread when you can walk down the street and buy this from your neighbor… 

Or you can make your own fresh bread… 

However, after spending a year in Ohio where my family had to learn to eat sliced bread, my kids do actually miss the toasted cheese sandwiches and French toast  from time to time.  So I bought them a few loaves and made their “Ohio comfort food.”

But it wasn’t actually any of these deep thoughts about bread that caught my eye when I saw those bags on my kitchen counter.  Instead, the sight of the empty plastic bags immediately transported me back to my childhood in the late ’70s.  To the kitchen of our little house in the big woods, to be exact, where my sister Becky and I would dig through the bag of re-usable bags and pull out two mostly-empty bread bags for our feet.  I say “mostly empty” because no bread bag is ever completely empty of crumbs, a sensation that I also clearly remembered as I looked at the bread loaf bags on my counter in Peru that afternoon.

But I’ve gotten a bit ahead of myself here.

As elementary school aged girls of the ’70s we needed the bread bags because of this…

Boots from the 70s
This picture was shamelessly copied from Etsy, where you can buy these retro boots for only  $48.

All the little girls wore them, and they served as both rain and snow boots.  Mine were black, and Becky’s looked just like the brown ones in the picture, scuffs and all.  We had a sneaking suspicion that they were modeled after Go-Go boots, although we weren’t supposed to know what those were.  And they weren’t practical at all, since the zippers made the boots as leaky as a sieve.  That’s where the bread bags came into play.

Every mom who had young daughters in the ’70s kept a stash of bread bags for her girls to pull over their feet, fastening the top with rubber bands, before zipping up the boots.  I remember going through this ritual countless times on our own kitchen floor, and also in the mud room of Bobbi & Melissa Smith’s farmhouse, when we went over there to play on wet winter afternoons.

The bags worked fairly well keeping out water and melted snow, but there were always a few stale bread crumbs that seemed to work their way into your socks.  And on the occasions when both the boots AND the bags leaked, those bread crumbs turned to a disgusting mush.

I couldn’t believe how quickly all of this came flooding back into my mind when I saw those bread bags on my counter!

…The plastic and stale bread smell that rose up out of the bags as I was rubber banding them to my pant leg… the feeling of the dry bread crumbs crushed into my sock… the cold seeping into my plastic boots and that special squinching sound as we ran through the fresh, dry snow.

It reminds me of a great old country song, “Ain’t it funny how a melody can bring back a memory?”  , except my title would need to be “Ain’t it funny how an old bread bag….”

(Actually, to be honest, the English teacher in me would never let me get away with saying “ain’t,” so I guess I’d have to change the title altogether. But you should click on the link and listen to the song… it’s a classic!)  

Anyhow, I find it kind of amazing how a brief  moment with a bread bag in my kitchen here in Peru could so instantly and completely transport me back to the Ohio of my childhood … the sights, sounds, smells and “feels” of those good old days!  I’m happy for the memories, bread crumbs and all!

McDonald & Smith girls
“The Girls” – Becky, Rachel, Liz & Sarah McDonald and Bobbi & Melissa Smith … all wearing the boots, of course!

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