Monday, February 23, 2009


Last week was a very difficult week. A project that we had worked on very hard met a cold, cold reception from the neighborhood. As of now, the project looks dead.

It’s never any fun to fail, and this is especially so when you think you’ve got something really good proposed. For us, there is an added sadness. We feel that we’ve failed people who don’t have any voice of their own and depend on us to speak for them. It’s bad to fail; worse to let your friends down.

So I did one of the things I like to do when I feel sad. I made breadcrumbs. I drive my wife and my college-age daughter who lives at home about crazy because I absolutely refuse to throw a single piece of stale bread away. There are times when, if you were foolish enough to look into our pantry, that you would see a big white garbage bag filled with pieces of a dozen loaves of bread that have gone stale.

Periodically, I gather all the stale bread in the house and patiently crumble it into breadcrumbs. How I do it depends on how hard it is. Sometimes I run it through the food processor. Some I can crumble by hand. Other times I have to get the big chef’s knife out and slice it into thin pieces before I can make it into breadcrumbs, but every piece of stale bread is reduce to breadcrumbs, no matter how long it takes.

Of course this means that our household usually has the world’s largest supply of breadcrumbs. In addition to obvious uses—breading for frying, toppings for casseroles and the like—I’ve explored dozens of other uses for breadcrumbs. I thicken soups with them. I use breadcrumbs to replace part of the flour in recipes. I fry them to eat with spaghetti. I make puddings.

Some of those uses are more popular than others. I’m the only one that will even try to eat the puddings. The important thing for me, however, is not to waste. If the bread isn’t too hard, then I can make croutons, which are very good, or melba toast, which always comes out terrible. You could break your teeth on the melba toast. Someday, though, I believe that if I keep trying I will find a good use for all the breadcrumbs I make.

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