Breaking Bread – The Language of Military Spouses

Breaking Bread, The Language of Military Spouses.

Recipes and stories from the kitchen of military spouses –

1700’s to modern day.

Breaking bread – by definition it means the tearing of bread. Metaphorically speaking, it means to “share a meal.” As military spouses, sharing meals seems to be part of our culture. For centuries, military spouses, mostly wives, have been proudly preparing and sharing dishes from their kitchen with others such as; soldiers, friends, neighbors or strangers.

There is never a shortage of occasions to bring a meal or a dish; a pot luck, spouse socials, Bunco, unit functions, illness, PCS’ing, grieving families, new babies, retirements and promotions – food seems to be the language we use to celebrate and comfort our fellow military family.

After interviewing many spouses about why food is such an intricate part of our lives, I realized that preparing and sharing a meal with someone is personal. It comes from our kitchens and represents us on many fronts. When sharing a meal, many spouses have used it as a way to “break the ice” at social functions. Some use it as a way to talk about their culture or family, while others use as a way to comfort or mend families.

It’s been a fascinating journey to research and discover all the ways military spouses use food to connect, comfort and heal. In a two-part series of Breaking Bread, you’ll discover recipes from military spouse and the stories behind the food – and the women who made them.

Part I looks to the past for inspiring stories of historical military spouses and some retro recipes. Put yourself in their shoes (or kitchens) and try to imagine these military wives as homemakers and mothers during a time of such historical conflict.

Part II takes a look at the modern military spouse and the recipes from our kitchens. Things have certainly changed, or have they?

Part I – Military Wives From Our Past in the Kitchen.

For centuries, military spouses have used food to comfort their husband soldiers. One of the most famous military spouses was Martha Washington, wife of then General George Washington (our first president) during the American Revolutionary War in 1770’s. It’s been said that Martha visited her husband often at the solider encampments like the one at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania. She would socialize with other officer wives while sipping tea, eating sweet breads and sharing stories. She traveled great distances to see her husband, not only because she supported the cause of freedom, but also because she was said to have “loved her husband madly.”

Martha created her own cookbook of sorts – The Booke of Cookery -1749. It was one of few collections of recipes at that time- a prized possession amongst well-connected families in Virginia. The book was finally published for the masses 200 years after her death.

Martha Washington Cookbook

The Continental Brioche

Martha Washington’s The Booke of Cookery, 1749. P. 113 (adapted)

3 cups of white flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/3 cup of bran flakes

1 teaspoon of salt

1 packet of instant yeast

1 teaspoon of sugar

1 cup of beer, flat

1 egg slightly beaten

1 cup milk

In a large bowl mix the flours, bran flakes and salt. In a small bowl combine the yeast, sugar, and flat beer and allow to proof for 5 minutes. Add the egg and the milk to the yeast mixture, then pour into the flour and mix well. Do not knead.

Cover the mixed dough with a wet cloth and allow it to rise for 1 ½ hours, then gently deflate. Form the dough into 2 small loaves and allow to rise for another hour. Bake in 400 degrees F oven for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the loaves, brush with milk and cool before eating.

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