There’s Nothing Like the Smell of Fresh-Baked Bread

The scent—both at home and in faraway places—lingers long and sweetly in my memory.

Growing up on a hobby farm in British Columbia, my sister, brother and I would be greeted after school by our mother, a long line of washing drying outside and the smell of fresh bread. If it had been raining, the wet clothes were hung inside in various parts of the house. The odour of bleach, bluing and wet cotton, combined with the smell of bread and cinnamon buns, both fresh-baked, was overwhelming. We’d hardly get our coats off before we’d cut huge chunks of warm bread, smearing them with butter and honey—the butter melting and the honey dripping. All the while my mother would be scolding us, reminding us to hang up our coats and not drip butter or honey on the clean floor.

I grew up coveting my mother’s fresh bread and, later, understanding its power in places far away. One year, our travels found us in a small hotel in Tuscany. Every day began with freshly baked bread and delicious pastries. Nonna, the resident grandmother, presided over the breakfast table. The hotel was actually her house, reimagined as a villa with three guest rooms and run by three generations of her family.

During our six-day stay, we were the only guests. Every morning after breakfast, Nonna would sit in the reception room, knitting all day and getting up each time we entered the room with a smile and a friendly greeting—“Buongiorno,” or “Buonanotte,” or “Grazie,“ or “Grazie mille.”

On our last day, as we came down the stairs to check out, Nonna stood up, smiled, said, “Buongiorno,” put down her knitting and walked over to the reception desk. She picked up a package and handed it to me. “For you,” she gestured, all smiles. It was a gift, beautifully wrapped in patterned white paper and tied with a red bow. I unwrapped the package to find a loaf of fresh bread, warm and fragrant with a hint of raisins. “Mille grazie, mille grazie,” I said over and over as my eyes welled up.

The memory of my mother’s homemade bread and Nonna’s gift of a freshly baked loaf still hold the power to make my eyes water.

Next, read a heartwarming story of how passing down family recipes is the greatest gift.

Originally Published in Our Canada