I knew there was something wrong with it as soon as I saw it. It looked pale and wan, like a bleached piece of driftwood which had spent its recent life washed by a relentless mountain of sea. Its layers of life had been stripped away leaving it unappealingly characterless. My breadboard. My lovely, much-loved and lovingly looked after breadboard. A breadboard we had rescued from under the old house we lived in 28 years ago in St Mary’s Bay. There it lay, a slab of nondescript wood in a cobwebby dusty pile of rubble. It was filthy and much unloved, I would have thought. I took it inside, scrubbed it to billy-oh, sprayed it with vinegar, washed it again, then dried it in the sun and rubbed it with mineral oil, and then restored to splendor, it started its new life, with the Biuso family. Sometime after we moved out of the house, the owners (we were renting the house) called to ask whether we had inadvertently taken a breadboard with us when we left. I replied no, we’d taken nothing from the kitchen and I didn’t ever recall there being a breadboard in the house. Later, it occurred to me that they could mean the piece of wood I’d found under the house, but technically, I didn’t lie, it was just a misunderstanding. I couldn’t give it up, couldn’t and wouldn’t. We were in love with it, the cute shape, the smoothness. It was the perfect breadboard – not too heavy, but not flimsy either, and it quickly obtained the battle scars of life from gentle and sometimes vigorous choppings, sawings and hackings. Stains from melting butter had seeped in and darkened part of the wood, and mashed bits of avocado, drizzles of maple syrup, spots of oil… a 28 year-old patina which told the story of our life, of hurried breakfasts, school lunches and rustic stacks of bruschetta. The breadboard had seen it all, fights, kid scraps, midnight snacks. It had been transported to picnics and used as a mini table. It’s underside had held fruit cakes, been graced by lady fingers, serviced school camps and proffered up elegant bread based snacks. It had worked its arse off in other words.
Some people are ridiculously protective of their breadboards, allowing only bread and toast atop them. We’re a little more relaxed, although we draw the line at garlic and chili sauce (I hate that heady whiff of garlic that steams up to the nose from hot toast as it lifts up the remnants of last night’s chopped garlic). But we always wash the board by hand. We scrub it. We never put it in the dishwasher.
I’d been to Portland, Oregon for less than 5 days and I returned to find the kitchen a tad messier than I had left it though there was nothing really to complain about (the kids had cooked for themselves). Eyes darting, taking in everything, you know how it is once you come back to reclaim your throne…and then I spied it.
What, eyebrows rising slowly, I asked daughter, happened to the breadboard??? Oh, she said sheepishly, he (he, being the French boyfriend, owner of enlarged sweater) put it in the dishwasher. Steely eyes meet soft apologetic ones. Oh, I said, eyebrows now risen higher than any botox could ever achieve. I grabbed the board, caressed its battle scars, smoothed its protruding hairy little fibery bits, then, without further ado, I removed a loaf of sour dough bread from its brown paper bag, put it on the breadboard and called out, ‘Who wants lunch?’.