This here bread is Silver Bell Lithuanian Bread. It is a dense, fine-grained rye bread with a crust as thick and dark as the last five chapters of Little Dorrit.
I should have photographed it next to something to demonstrate how large it is. My enormous cat, who weighs 15 pounds, would be dwarfed by this quartern-loaf.
Silver Bell is the name of the bakery; Lithuanian Bread is the name of the type of bread. Like, in certain neighborhoods, we're sure you could just walk in to the store and when you get to the counter you could ask for "half-a-loaf-a Lithuanian Bread" and they would know just what you meant and what to give you. In other neighborhoods, you'd get laughed out of the store.
We won't tell you where we bought this. There is a farm store (sort of like an indoor farm stand) in our town which has the best local foods available, terrible national brands (and prices thereon), and wonderful, irreplaceable things like smoked paprika and light miso which you wouldn't think you could find anywhere north of the East Village.
This store has a very philosophical spirit of merchandising. When something new comes in, something for which there is no room on the shelves, they toss it into a food cart and steer it into the middle of the traffic flow. Either the cart is emptied or it's driven into the canned peaches. This is market research at its most elemental.
I was walking past the cart and thought nothing of it until a smell reached out to me--a smell of home, a smell of comfort, a smell of really really good rye bread like Mom used to get from Wall's Bakery in Hewlett. A soft voice seemed to croon, "Take me home with you and cover me with butter."
(My friend JC claims he gets this kind of thing all the time, but it was new to me.)
I did as the bread asked (yes, iIknow, normal) and the taste and texture were exquisite.
The interior of the bread was flavorful and chewy without reminding me of commercial insulation (as so many rye breads do).
The crust...the crust propelled me back in time to our family's Sunday dinner table, circa 1969. Mom has done something clever again, like giving Dad a single parched drumstick from a distinctly non-kosher chicken amid a plateful of frozen green beans. (I got the wing). In between the whining, the groaning, the stomach-grumbling and the noises my brother made when he ate, I grab a piece of rye bread (which, mysteriously, Mom allows on the table in defiance of her limited-calorie regime) and the butter dish (ditto, ditto). I lavishly butter the piece of bread and stuff in into my mouth, crust first.
MMMM....it's delicious and, more than that, it tastes like nothing else ever quite does. I love Pepperidge Farm white bread as toast, I adore sweetish Parker House rolls, but tough, chewy, crusty rye bread is like nothing else ever.
It leaves our house between Sundays. I'm not sure where it goes, or why my mother even buys it.
But Dad worships good bread (his father was a skilled Kosher baker) and perhaps this is evidence of some long-ago compromise. There won't be bread on the table every day, for this would mortify my poor mother's eating disorder. And she wouldn't eat it herself...bread is only virtuous when it's a sandwich brown-bagged for lunch. But there would be bread on Sundays, and even the plump youngest child would be able to have two slices of it, buttered. (More than that, and the wrath of Mom descended.)
Maybe I eat it because it reminds me of that long-ago pleasure in a life with not enough of them. Maybe it just tastes good. Anyway, you can find it at
East Village Deli-Meat Market
(Silver Bell Lithuanian bread)
139 Second Avenue
Tel. (212) 228-5590
And no, that isn't where I bought it.