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In this version the Little Red hen shares the bread with her chicks. No doubt a device to make her character more sympathetic

I made bread! This is earth-shattering, even though we’re talking bread mix, because I don’t cook so much as burn things. But the cold weather just lit something in me; call it that old hearth and home instinct, if you will.

I didn’t have much hope for this bread and consoled myself that, if nothing else, it would make a good science experiment. But lo and behold, the bread survived! It was edible. It was actually tasty! To me, at any rate. My son took a few bites and refused any more. Ever.

Now, this guy is not a picky eater. He’s a tall, lanky teenager who is always hungry and will eat anything from plate or package that remotely resembles food.

In fact, the other day he asked, “Mom, can I eat insects?”

I took this as a rhetorical question and replied that yes, because in other cultures insects are a staple and considered a good source of protein. Nevertheless, i couldn’t help picturing him plucking bugs off the grass and asked, “Why would you want to? Don’t we have enough food in the house?”

A few days later I walked over while he was at his desk and asked what he was working on. To my surprise—more like shock—he held up a dried cricket. When I asked if he was studying crickets, he informed me that he was eating them. His environmental science teacher had given out boxes of dried crickets and explained that they were the food of the future.

So…crickets, yes. My freshly baked bread, no.

This bread is so dense and filling that I came to the conclusion I’d unwittingly made lembas bread, something that could sustain even the hungriest hobbit fleeing orcs and uruk-hai. Yes, folks, you can go online and find recipes by Lord of the Rings devotees who have diligently attempted to replicate this elvish concoction. Or you can just hand me a package of Ikea bread mix and et voilà! 

My bread experience reminds me of The Little Red Hen. You know, where the Little Red Hen asks the dog, the cat, and the duck (or variations thereof) who will help her plant the wheat, harvest it, grind it into flour, etc., and they all reply, “Not I.” Until, of course, it’s time to eat the bread, and then everyone wants to help. In every edition of the book there is inevitably that illustration of those three faces, peering hopelessly and hungrily at the Little Red Hen.

I think  every child who has ever read this story has one of two reactions:

  1. Wish the hen would have mercy and give the animals some bread and a chance to redeem themselves.
  2. Yup, feel bad for them, but they didin’t help. Sucks for you, guys!

My own childhood reaction was that the other animals could suffer but not the cat. In fact, the idea of that cat being unhappy distressed me so much that my mother had to retell the story with an alternative ending in which the hen takes pity on the cat, who is allowed to come in and have bread. Which implies I started life as a superficial sort of person who believed that a different set of rules apply for individuals whom I consider cute and charming. Even more disturbing is that I later wondered what cat in its right mind would hanker after bread rather than eating the hen.

Both my cats have turned up their noses at my bread. They also prefer bugs.