My grandpa, who is known in my family as GBob (short for Grandpa Bob, a term I coined at 12 years old) is my best friend. GBob has worked many jobs during his life from accountant to used car salesman and woodworker- but objectively his most important job was teaching me to bake bread.
From a young age, I remember spending time with him in the kitchen. He taught me how to make sour dough, NY style bagels, and of course his famous challah. One summer, when I went to Charlotte to stay with my grandparents, we spent more Sunday mornings baking together than I can count. It was an opportunity to bond over sour dough starter and challah braids and it instilled in me a love for baking.
During our Sunday morning festivities he would make exclamations in Yiddish when something didn’t work out the way he wanted and through this I learned many old stories about my grandparents lives growing up in their Ohio Jewish community.
One of my favorite stories he tells is about his first summer at Jewish summer camp. He describes the summer as two months of building fire pits and walking around with a box of Cheerios at all times. GBob has always been an extremely picky eater; hence the need to make his own bagels so he has something to eat. As you probably can imagine, picky eaters and summer camp don’t get along very well and GBob says that he subsided off of mustard sugar sandwiches- the three things on the table between meals.
At 17, when I found out I had celiac disease, our Sunday morning baking sessions became a thing of the past. I could no longer touch gluten and baking bread just reminded me of what I could no longer have. For the last 6 years, I told myself that bread was off limits- no good. I sat through Shabbat meals watching everyone enjoy delicious challah and ate crumbly gluten free cookies while my family enjoyed delicious homemade Mandel bread.
After making Aliyah in August, I found myself missing home and wishing to feel closer to my family from 5,000 miles away. When I thought about the moments I enjoyed most with my family, baking bread with GBob was the first thing that came to mind. About two months ago I decided I was on a mission- to make the best gluten free challah and sour dough.
The best part about getting back into baking bread is that when a loaf goes wrong, I can call GBob and he will help me think of things I could do to make it better the next time. I call him while I’m kneading bread or letting it proof and we talk politics and about his current favorite book (right now it’s Sapeins.) During these calls, I am brought right back to those days in South Carolina making bread dough before going out for our morning run.
It’s hard to go through changes and being diagnosed with celiacs disease has been one of the hardest changes of my life. It makes most Jewish events more difficult- from Shabbat meals to Bagel Brunches and it often leaves me feeling left out of the fun. Admittedly, Jews aren’t so good at the gluten free life style but luckily, I have an awesome GBob who is always happy to help me find ways to make it a little bit easier.