Polish people don’t eat white bread. That’s for Americans. We only eat rye—Polish rye. But not this week. This week there was a Polish problem. The deli ran out of the rye that Mom and I usually get. When we walked in and heard the news, Mom reacted as if she’d just witnessed a double homicide.
“Oh my god. No!”
We would have to try a new brand of bread, and the only thing on the shelf was Turano Rustic Rye.
“Turano?” Mom said, getting heated. “Is that Italian for ‘rip-off’?” She scrutinized the package. “And rustic? What do they know about rustic? You don’t know rustic until you’ve crapped in an outhouse for the first ten years of your life.”
Mom had a difficult childhood.
I told her we needed to be open-minded about the bread. But it was too much to ask.
“The deli is scamming us, mark my words.” Mom poked the loaf. “These slices look small.”
Mom held the package up to her face and declared that the loaf looked small, didn’t it? I shrugged. It looked appropriately loaf sized to me. Maybe her head was big.
“Shut up and start counting the slices,” Mom said.
“I’m not counting the slices,” I replied.
“Don’t take their side,” Mom warned.
Mom ripped open the plastic package. I told her to stop it. If she opened the package, she’d have to buy the loaf.
“Like hell I do,” Mom said. “I need to see this bread.”
Mom ate a slice and stuck out her tongue.
“I don’t know,” she declared like a real bread PhD. “You try it.”
She pressed a slice to my face like it was a handkerchief dipped in chloroform.
“Easy!” I protested, backing away.
Now people were staring. I took the slice, bit into the bread crust. It was hard—nail file hard. A prisoner could break out of jail with this crust. I ripped the slice in half and ate the center. It was chewy like bubble gum. This wasn’t real rye. It tasted like an off-brand cookie. A faux-reo, not an Oreo.
I ate another piece to be sure I hated it. Mom ate another piece too, and she hated it more than I did. Now we were both enraged. Before long, there was only one slice left in the bag.
A teenage deli worker walked into the aisle with an armload of pickle jars. She stared. A crumb dangled off of Mom’s chin.
“You’re gonna pay for that bread, right?” the teen asked.
Mom and I made our way to the cash register with the near-empty bag of Turano Rustic Rye.
“Five bucks for one slice of bread,” Mom complained as we waited for change. “Ridiculous.”
It wasn’t a good deal, but we’ll be back. We always come back. Next time, if they don’t have our usual Polish rye, we’ll buy the Turano again. Polish people don’t eat white bread. We’d rather get scammed than do that.