It is a constant crust that cannot be cut away. The loser piece of the loaf. The beginning that must be gotten through and the end that must be endured. The heel. And I will not have it!
As the oldest of five, I was guaranteed to get it. There was always someone younger who wasn’t up to crust and it was just easier to serve the last slice to the oldest sibling. And it had to be eaten because otherwise there wouldn’t be enough to go around. On top of that, if we had company or cousins…I would wind up with both toasted tips!
And though I was grateful for my daily bread, because I was regularly reminded when I complained that there are people with no bread at all, my elementary aged incisors would struggle through it’s extra dryness from its position of outer exposure as I squeezed my bologna and Velveeta between these counterfeit crusts and imagined I was eating the inner most slice. The prized position in the pan.
Sometimes I would flip my food upside down, good side up so I couldn’t see it. If the mayonnaise had been smeared on the standard slice, I would restructure my sandwich, tucking the obscene brown bit within, so only soft surface was showing, but I knew. And with every bite, I was less chewing and more gnashing my teeth against a texture I just couldn’t tolerate.
In adulthood I avoided sandwiches and toast, thoroughly convinced that I did not like bread. But once I was married, the loaves were suddenly back on the grocery list and I soon discovered that it was not bread itself that I despised but the heel!
So I would use the bread, reaching around the heel to the rest. But eventually, I wound up with a bunch of moldy heels. So, I started tucking them away in the freezer. Until one day…my husband confronted me about my heel hording.
He had opened the freezer to get some ice but had been blindsided by bread. A glut of gluten, all frozen solid and falling on his face. There were at least 40 little plastic twist-tied leftover loaf bits all stored up and saved for someday.
“Why is our freezer full of frozen bread heels?”
“I thought I would use them for stuffing.”
“You know there are only two of us, right?”
“But I hate the heel!”
“Then throw it away.”
Throw it away? Just throw it away?!? This bit of daily bread I had so generously been given when there were people out there who didn’t have any bread at all…as I had so often been reminded. But what was I going to do? Send them all of my heels? That’s not really giving, that’s garbage. And saving it up for someday wasn’t gratitude, it was guilt.
Guilt over having enough to go around, even without the heel. Guilt over no longer struggling to get by. Guilt over doing better. Guilt over gluten I was no longer going to give in to.
I don’t force myself to eat the heel anymore. I rarely save it either. I don’t have to. And I am grateful.