Lately I have been trying to solve The Breadcrust Problem, and if you are a parent of young 'uns you know the one I mean. We want our children to eat the crusts. But they rarely do. What kind of pragmatic intervention does this require on our part? And what should our moral stance be on this wholesale rejection of perfectly good food?
First off, since I make Jack and Will's sandwiches with bread I have made (albeit by bread machine), I feel extra perturbed by the waste. So I was intrigued when I read in Parent Hacks of a mother named Krista who has revisited the controversial crust-cutting solution. In a virtuous way, though, because she actually uses the crusts. So today I cut the crusts off the sandwich bread. I'll freeze them for bread pudding or croutons. The theory is that the boys will eat more of the non-crust this way,too. No crust, therefore no danger zone near the crust.
With all this cogitation upon bread crusts, I thought, "Let me consult a man of the crust." You see, in the spring I bought Brother Juniper's Bread Book: Slow Rise as Method and Metaphor at the used book sale at our local library. The title alone is delectable. He writes, "One of my earliest goals in baking was to make a crust so good that kids would not eat around it and leave it on the plate. I now know how to do this." Before you rush to find a copy, please know that his method does involve five rises, spritzing with water, and several other ablutions. And yes, he is talking about a crust that crackles and crunches, a French bread, not a crust from a prosaic bread machine. But even the commonest crust is elevated when we read the following:
The sound of crust is like an icon, not painted but baked, in which a window is briefly opened onto greater understanding. As beauty evokes beauty, the sound of crust evokes the intuition of perfection. When that intuition is sparked by something in this world, even crust, it can rightly be called religious, which might rightly be called "connectedness."
You don't have to be an aesthete or an ascetic to value bread crusts, though. We even learn from science that they may have extra life-giving powers, as well.
So how to prevent all this crusty goodness from being thrown into the cafeteria trash? The pressure on children to eat bread crusts in the absence of their parents' supervision has created a wealth of folklore. Beth, from I Used to Believe, tell us:
When I was in first grade, I brought peanut butter sandwiches to school everyday, but I never ate the crusts. One day when we were throwing away our trash, another little girl saw the leftover crusts in my baggy and she (who had apparently just taken her first communion), yelled "don't throw that away! That's Jesus's skin!" I was a little hesitant to throw away my savior's skin, but I decided it didn't make much sense and went ahead to the trash.
Other reasons parents have given their children are that crusts have the most vitamins (possibly true?), they'll make your hair curly (back when every girl wanted that),improve your whistling skills, and encourage breast development (only in girls, I guess?).
In the end, science, religion, grown-ups and children concur on the subject of bread crusts: Disguise as needed and eat with gratitude.