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Gran’s Cookbook - Sour Dough / Delphine Gauthier-Georgakopoulos

Rebecca removed the frayed beige cloth covering the jar and, ignoring the urge to pull at a loose thread, lifted it to her nose. “It smells like Daddy’s breath in the evening! What is it?”

Gran grabbed the jar from her chubby little hands. “Sourdough.”

“What is it for?”

“For the bread to rise.” Gran sniffed it. “It’s perfect. So, tell me, what do we need?”

The little girl’s brows knotted. She counted on her fingers as she spoke. “We need five things. Flour, water… the smelly thing, and… I can’t remember.”

Gran pointed to her open cookbook. “Good thing you’ve learned to read then.”

Rebecca’s index finger followed the loopy handwriting. “Salt and… th… ti… thime?”

Gran chuckled. “It’s thyme, with a ‘y’.”

Rebecca nodded, dragged a wooden stool to the back wall, climbed on it, and rummaged through the shelves before returning to the table with a triumphant grin. “Here, we’re ready!”

“That’s not thyme, it’s rosemary.”

“Oh! Would it make a difference?”

Gran reached for the back shelves and brought a small container. “Close your eyes and smell. Here, this one first. Now this. Which one do you think would be best?”

“The second one!”

“Good girl.” Gran spooned the buckwheat flour inside a large ceramic bowl with an orange rim. “Make a well in the centre.”

“How do I do that?”

“Make a hole, push the flour to the side.” 

Mum’s cough warned Rebecca of her presence. She gazed up, beaming. “Mummy! We’re making bread!”

Her mother’s smile did not lighten the ocean of sadness filling her pale blue eyes as she stood by the entrance, her back straight, a hesitant ballet dancer holding the handle as if it were a barre—taking one step forward, one step back—a mask of uncertainty on her face. Like when she speaks with Daddy

 “I can see that, Rebecca. Can I help?”

Gran’s throaty, humourless cackle filled the kitchen. The icy glare she gave her daughter could have turned the dough sour. “You? Helping us with… what? Why don’t you set the table, dear? You’ve always been good at appearances and useless, pretty things.”

Mum’s mouth, her shoulders, her whole body drooped like a deflated soufflé. She pirouetted in slow motion before disappearing down the silent hall. 

Gran shook her head. “Now, pour the water in the well and get to work.”

“Yes, Gran.” It didn’t take long for Rebecca’s hands to be covered with a dark goo. “I think it needs more flour. It’s too sticky!”

Gran snorted. “Are you planning to make a crumble or bread? Use your hands, put your wrists into it, will you? You need to work on it for at least ten minutes.”

Rebecca rubbed her forehead with her sleeve and kneaded with all her might. “Like this?”

“Yes, that's better. Keep at it.” Gran placed a large piece of beef in red wine to marinate, humming as she sprinkled spices and herbs before settling at the table to peel the potatoes and carrots.

“Gran, I’m tired. It’s still too sticky.”

“Add some flour then, but keep at it. I failed to teach your mother, and look what happened… I will not fail you.”

Rebecca paused, staring at her grandmother. “What do you mean?”

“The way to a man’s heart is through his belly, child. Had your mother been able to cook, you would still have a father!”

“But, I have a da—”

Mum barged into the kitchen holding a blue vase with dangling flowers. She banged it on the table, petals scattering around in an uneven circle of pastels. “Mother! Rebecca is too young to be dragged into this!”

“Emma, dear, she might as well learn the truth.”

“Rebecca, go clean up. Your grandmother can finish alone. Let’s go for a walk to the village.”

“Yes, mummy! Can we go by the pond to see the ducks?”

“That’s an excellent idea! Off you go. I’ll be up in a minute.”

Rebecca dashed through the door to the landing. She raised her hand to grab the handrail and gasped. Her hands were still covered in dough. Spinning around, she made for the kitchen, but stopped when she reached the ajar door as angry voices echoed through the empty hall.

“A divorcee. My daughter is a divorcee! You insisted, Emma, you wanted to marry for love. I warned you he was no good, way below our station, but did you listen? No, of course not! And now you come home with your daughter and then what? What are you planning to do? How will you raise a child on your own?”

“Mother, I’m perfectly capable of—”

“Are you expecting me to look after you both? What will you do about money? You have never worked a day in your life!”

“I have skills. I went to secretarial school, remember? I can find a job.”

“So, let’s say you do become a secretary. What about Rebecca?”


“Just as I thought.”

Mum threw the door open and froze, coming face to face with Rebecca. She covered her face with her hands as tears glistened into a river of sorrow meandering from her cheeks to her hands, and along her thin, bruised wrists.


DELPHINE GAUTHIER-GEORGAKOPOULOS is a Breton writer, teacher, mother, nature and music lover, foodie, dreamer. She loves butter, needs coffee, hates easy opening packaging, and likes to create stories in her head. She lives in Athens, Greece. X/Facebook: @DelGeo14.


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