Mrs Brown's Cardamom Bread

We were newlyweds, poor, and convinced that living naturally was important for ours and the earth’s welfare. We bought flour, grains, and beans in unpacked bulk and shopped at grocers that sold abundant supplies of beautifully green produce. I learned how to bake yeast bread—basic white, wheat breads.

He spoke longingly of the bread his mother made at Christmas. He called it Cardamon bread, a light gently sweet aromatic bread made with a cardamon spice. I tried but no recipe I found matched his memory of its texture and flavor. I needed guidance, but his family lived in Minnesota far from DC. Two years later we went to Minnesota for Christmas. His mother’s kitchen was immaculate. I felt awkward there, but watched her make the bread. 

Mrs. Brown smashed the cardamon seeds from their shells, dumped them into a bowl of hot milk, and added the yeast when the milk cooled. She mixed sugar and shortening (margarine or Crisco) in the electric mixer bowl and stirred in the yeast mixture. Flour was added gradually to obtain a soft dough. 

She let the dough rise, doubling in size, then punched it down. At the second rising, she turned the dough out onto a floured board, it was allowed to rest for about fifteen minutes. The dough was then divided in half, the halves were divided into three sections. Their ends dampened, pressed together and braided. Two loaves were made. They were allowed to rise. Then a yolk diluted with water was painted over the top, and sugar sprinkled over it. Then she baked the loaves. 

The bread was as delicious as my husband said. I would bake it for him the next sixteen years before our divorce.

-- Leslie Brown grew up in a close-knit working class family in Detroit and now lives in Virginia.  Where many playmates went south during the summer, she spent many fondly remembered weeks at her grandparent’s apartment near Hastings Street before the area was urban renewed. She retired from work as a librarian, working in public as well as university libraries. She enjoyed work helping students discover literature and information. She holds n MFA in creative writing from American University and served as an editor for American University Graduate magazine while there. Since retiring, she has explored various writing forms and multi-media formats. She created a video imagining the black migrant’s experience, "Detroit Great Migration Impressions.”