Imagine a snowy wind whistling outside a brightly lit home with a spacious fireplace burning inside. A comfortable couch is covered by blankets, long enough for four or maybe five, counting the family dog to snuggle. And there's an aroma wafting in from the oven of homemade bread.
Why bread, you say? According to Peggy Alberda, nothing matches the scent, texture, taste and memories, as well as coziness, evoked by homemade bread, and that's the message of her recently published children's book, “Hugo Makes Bread with Grandad.”
With 40 pages drawn in a Saturday Evening Post-reminiscent style by former Fort Wayne resident Mary Coons, the story is built upon memories but also hope for the future.
“I just really, really want people to give bread-baking a try,” said Alberda, a 62-year-old Leo-Cedarville resident. “It seems people think it is difficult, but in reality the hands-on time is very minimal. I want to see children experience baking with someone who loves them, and teaching bread-making is a skill they may use for the rest of their lives.”
Alberda has long been known by friends and family as an “expert in cozy,” her daughter Molly Jones writes. She says her mother often makes homemade meals complete with loaves of homemade bread delivered at a time when people need comforting the most. Jones says the story comes at a time when many Americans “feel dark and lonely” and looking for comfort.
“It distracts us with the reminders of traditions, togetherness and comforts us with the remembrance of the way steam rises from fresh bread and how good it felt to learn something valuable at the side of someone with much bigger hands and many more years lived,” she writes.
For months, Alberda felt like she was supposed to write a children's book, but she wasn't a writer. For 33 years she's been a dance teacher and director, the founder of Leo's Restored to Glory Dance Ministry. Over two decades she often wrote 30-minute devotions for the dancers, not to publish but to teach from. So there was some background of ability, but she'd never written something as deliberate as a book.
Compelled to sit and write one day, the topic that kept rising in her mind was “bread.”
“My husband and I have made bread since we were teenagers, and we make all of our bread, both sweet and savory,” Alberda said. “On our first date 43 years ago we made pocket bread together and have been baking ever since. We have always made the bread in our home. I make sourdough bread, and he makes whole wheat oatmeal honey bread that the grandkids named 'Granddad bread.'”
Within a few hours, the entire story flowed from her fingers, as she painted a picture of real baking experiences that are common with their grandchildren.
The story is told through the eyes of 4-year-old Hugo as he goes through the stages with his granddad. Hugo makes his grandparents proud, and the baking builds confidence and joy in the little boy.
And that story is exactly what Alberda's grandchildren remember.
“The book basically sums up a real trip to their house,” said Asa, now 14. “I loved putting the ingredients in and the kneading is great. It's just a unique experience.”
His sister Ellis, 12, said making bread was always something neat they could have fun with together.
Alberda said producing the book took about nine months. Jones helped edit the book and her friend Sue Britton laid it out. It went on sale Jan. 19 and is available on Amazon.
There also are more details about Alberda's bread-baking at her website, luluslittlebooks.com, named for the Haverpoo dog who somehow sneaks onto most pages. The website shows the bread bowl used in the book that she bought at a yard sale before she was married in 1978 and a photo of Granddad's Bread.
“My husband and I have been talking about how having all the right people in place is likened to having the right ingredients to making your bread,” Alberda said.
To help get people started baking bread, the book concludes with a very simple recipe Alberda created which takes about three hours.
“I feel very satisfied when I imagine children snuggled up listening to this story read by an adult who loves them, then going to the kitchen to create one of the most wonderful foods we have,” Alberda said. “When a child creates bread, I feel it helps them build confidence and it's an accomplishment they can share with people they love.”
Peggy Alberda will give bread-making classes starting late this spring for children ages 4 years old through adult. Young children must be accompanied by an adult. For more information contact Alberda at firstname.lastname@example.org.