My dad is a good baker. His specialties are bread, jelly, and pizza dough. Dad is a retired High School biology teacher. His love and appreciation for the physical sciences comes through in his baking. A recent conversation with my wife about memorable school lunches got me thinking that I ate a lot of homemade bread. I don’t know if it was all the time, or just once in a while, but I did eat Dad’s made-from-scratch bread and occasionally some jelly. Another memorable lunch is when I brought left-over home-made pizza. I enjoy cold pizza to this day. Yet, the memory of a school lunch with Dad’s pizza reigns over any left-over pizza to this day. Dad taught Christi how to make his pizza dough, and, at the risk of offending my father, I like her dough the best. I guess that means dad is an even better teacher than baker.
Out of all of Dad’s baking accomplishments, none can be better than his Christmas stollen bread. Dad is not German, but somehow he figured out how to bake it. He found the right sweetness, a good blend of nuts and fruits, and the perfect texture. You can eat it thick-sliced toasted, thin sliced with salted butter, or just simply sliced. Once a year, our kitchen would turn into a stollen factory. The sweet smells of those days are with me today. Dad would bake the bread and then give it to friends and family. Once dad showed up to a Christmas choir practice without the bread and we were worried they’d go on strike until they got their Christmas bread.
Once my brother got his driver’s license, we became the deliverers of many bread loafs. My favorite delivery was the year he bought a convertible. This was no ordinary convertible; it was a baby blue 1978 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight. Although a two-door, it was longer than our VW bus. The gigantic 8 cylinder engine had so much torque, it could accelerate at the same speed with six friends in the car as it would with a solo driver. It came equipped with an 8-track player and a Neil Diamond cassette the previous owner left under the seat. Just before Christmas, my brother and I were given our lengthy stollen delivery list and we set out. It was a cold day, below freezing but dry (rare for Western Washington). We put on our heaviest winter coats and Santa hats, and took off into the frigid and sunny afternoon with the back seat of his car full of brightly wrapped loaves of bread.
Convertibles in Washington State are rare. When it’s twenty degrees, and two teenagers wearing Santa hats with huge grins on their faces, and driving one of the biggest cars on the road with the top down, singing, “Forever in blue jeans,” people noticed. I can’t tell you how many people shouted, “Merry Christmas” to us as we drove along. As the day turned to night, we had made all our deliveries and found several loaves leftover in the back seat. Driving down the streets of Tacoma, we looked for people who needed Christmas cheer. And we did – pedestrians just minding their own business turned to hear the convertible (and Neil Diamond) approaching. I would jump out of the car, hand the stranger a loaf of bread, and say, “Merry Christmas.” The last person I handed a loaf to said, “Man, what are you guys, the two Kings riding in a convertible?” I nodded my head and we drove off singing, “I’m a Believer.”