Yesterday morning, as I was getting ready to leave to head north to my family reunion, I dropped my casserole dish filled with four and a half pounds of just-from-the-oven herbed new potatoes in the middle of the driveway. The dish, my nicest and largest piece of stone bakeware, shattered and potatoes rolled out into the street amidst shards of glazed stone. The scent of garlic and Parmesan cheese filled the air and I cried a little as I watched it all happen in slow motion. Those potatoes were beautiful. I grieved those lovely round tubers as I cleaned up chunks of bakeware and starch and my three guys hugged me and patted my back while eyeing my tears worriedly. It could be a long day if mom starts it out crying over potatoes.
We decided we would stop at a deli in my hometown when we passed through in about an hour and a half. Too late to make anything else. I still had the Texas sheetcake I’d made for dessert. The cooler was packed with drinks and waiting for a bag of ice. There was nothing for it. I was at the mercy of the grocery store deli.
It took about ninety miles for me to get over it. Teddy played me happy songs from his collection, it was just the two of us, his dad and brother were driving separate because they both had to stay for church. We listened to the music in silence, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and I noticed the goldenrod was blooming a little further north than us.
After driving an hour and a half, we stopped at a WalMart in Bridgeport and loaded up on a disappointing broccoli slaw salad. There were no hot side dishes at the deli and it was still too early for any other options. The bakery was beside the deli and I thought I’d like a nice loaf of fresh Italian bread. My hometown area of West Virginia—the Bridgeport/Clarksburg area—has a number of local Italian bakeries and every time I go home I load up on bread. But, for whatever reason, WalMart did not carry any of the bread from the local bakeries. I looked at Teddy and he looked at me and I said, “I have two words for you: pepperoni roll.” He nodded.
The pepperoni roll is a regional thing; invented by Italian immigrants in West Virginia in the 1920s so the coal miners would have a nonperishable lunch item to take into the mines with them. Many of my southern and western friends have never experienced the beauty of this delicacy of spicy processed meat wrapped in dough. It’s an Appalachian thing.
My heart needed mending from the potato incident. So we took the broccoli slaw and drove down Bridgeport hill into Clarksburg, over the bridge and into Glen Elk Village and found the Tomaro Bakery. The scent of baking bread greeted us as we parked along the street. People were lined up on the sidewalk, waiting for their orders. I stepped inside the old brick storefront and all that existed for me was the smell of baking bread.
Behind the counter were three or four lovely Italian women of varying ages. They were quick, and friendly, and I was nervous I would mess this up.
“I’d like two dozen pepperoni rolls, please.” I looked at a man with a hat beside me in line, holding a white bag—the tip of a rounded loaf peeking out the top. “And a loaf of hard crust. Sliced.” She nodded and smiled.
“Do you want those warm?”
I swallowed hard. Was she kidding?
“It’ll be about five minutes.” I joined the other desperate souls on the sidewalk outside the small storefront. It was a happy group, bonded by a love of fresh Italian bread. Cars kept driving up, adding to our numbers. I watched several people disappear with their white bags. After five minutes, I peered through the window anxiously. Had they forgotten me?
When my name was called, I took my two white bags with trembling hands, grease already beginning to soak through the paper. The rolls were so hot they burned Teddy’s fingers. But we ate one anyway. The bread melted in my mouth and the pepperoni was perfect—sliced in long rectangular pieces like my mom used to do.
Who cares about potatoes anyway?
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