Slapping the Dough


Apparently I’m obsessed with food. Completely obsessed. I hadn’t a clue how true that statement is until I wrote my book, PERSEPHONE IN HELL. The subject of food permeates my every chapter. Good times, ugly moments, difficult relationships, innocent encounters – food is everywhere in my story.

In Chapter Nannie and Sadie, Glory visits her grandmother and aunt in Boston for school vacation week. She looks forward to this annual trip which helps her escape, if only temporarily, from her cow town out in the country. But this time, Nannie and Sadie aren’t speaking to each other. Glory hasn’t any idea why.

“I should have stayed home. Why did I even come this year? Glory wondered as she sat watching Nannie knead the dough for the challah. Nannie was a good baker. Not as good as Ma, whose cinnamon bread, served warm with melting butter, filled the house with the scent of heaven.

Maybe it was in the forcefulness of Ma’s kneading that the spirit of bread in its full Platonic sense was revealed. Ma always said that slapping and pushing the dough around the breadboard was therapeutic. The idea is to get the dough as smooth and soft as a baby’s bottom, she’d say. Nannie’s hands were old and weak compared with Ma’s. But to give Nannie credit, her bread was good too.

Today, Nannie was silent as she lifted and pushed the dough with the palm of her hand, turned it, lifted and pushed again. Her eyes were angry but she wouldn’t say a word.

…Meanwhile, the silence was deafening. Glory couldn’t hold out much more, waiting for the new world she longed to see. I am bored, so very bored. And savages, all around and deep inside were stirring, moving to reclaim their lost land.”

Glory is a troubled girl. That’s evident right from the beginning of the story. Perhaps if she had learned to slap the dough instead of holding all her anger in, she might not have cut herself. It’s unfortunate that while Ma has learned a way to release some of her stress and anger, she hasn’t taught that trick to her daughter Glory. Slap the dough ‘smooth and soft as a baby’s bottom’ – now there’s a message not so subtle! There is no handing down of sympathies in this family. Each wrapped in her own distress, no one takes notice of another’s. Glory is on her own, truly.