When Tradition Meets Necessity: The Reintroduction of Soppin’ Bread
Many of the meals in my home contain sauce or gravy of some kind. It’s a great way to get a little extra flavor and filling from the drippings of a fried meat or vegetable. It also helps to make ordinary meat-potato-vegetable plates seem something more extravagant. Plus, I really enjoy it.
After watching my 5-year-old tear into his food like a rabid monkey for nights on end, I started to notice he was also growing. This new growth spurt was making him a bit more cranky than normal. It was also helping him to polish off at least two servings of food at each meal. At the end of every meal, it was all I could do to keep him from licking the gravy or sauce off the plate. (He was not a waster, and apparently really liked gravy, too.)
I remembered what my Dad used to do at mealtimes with his gravy-laden plates. He would take a piece of bread, fold it in half, and scrape the gravy from the plate like a squeegee – getting every last drop of sauce off the plate, and also giving him a more enjoyable way to eat the bread than typical butter or jam. He used to call this “soppin’ bread.”
After scolding my son for what seemed like the 80th time regarding his plate-licking attempts, my husband and I looked at one another, and then finished each other’s thoughts. As backward as it had seemed growing up, the soppin’ bread was a great idea. We showed my son how licking the plate was unacceptable, but that a piece of bread was a nicer (and more filling) way to get the job done. He took to it right away. He now asks for soppin’ bread at every meal.
Before you go thinking that I’m filling my kid up with carbs, understand that a quality whole-wheat or multigrain bread is a fine way to supplement a meal. Making it yourself with a bread maker is not only delicious, but ultra-affordable. Instead of my son helping himself to another portion of meat or potatoes, he can get a nice, nutritious serving of fiber. The time it takes him to eat the bread also gives him time to let his food settle a bit, which usually results in him not needing a second portion. (Your brain doesn’t always realize that the stomach is full when meals are polished off so quickly.)
Soppin’ bread can save money over the cost of often unnecessary second (or third) helpings. It also gives a use to that small amount of uneaten sauce or gravy, and it can perfectly accompany soups and stews. The savings (though small) can really add up for large families. (Those of you who hand wash dishes will also appreciate how much easier your plates are to clean when the bread is used.)
Like many meal mannerisms, there is a time and place for sopping. (I’m sure I don’t have to tell you when it might not be favored.) For a brief history of bread (and how it has been used to “sop” sauces and soups for centuries), check out this Wiki entry.