As Ohio and the rest of the U.S. execute orders in an attempt to protect Americans and decrease the spread of COVID-19, families like the Peabodys in Greenfield suddenly find themselves at home with more free time on their hands than they’ve had in a long time.
Jamie Peabody, who was serving as a long-term substitute teacher for Mrs. Dettwiller’s fifth-grade social studies class at Greenfield Elementary before schools across Ohio temporarily closed, said her family is taking advantage of the new free time.
“The first week out of school, we took lots and lots of walks because it was so nice out. We’d walk over to a friend’s house and sit on their front porch and talk to them, but as we’ve needed to be more contained, we’ve been doing a lot of yard work — all those little things that you wish you had time for,” Peabody said. “My kids are both very athletic, and usually in the spring, we are softball, baseball, and she’s going to try track this year, which hopefully she’ll be able to. In the summer, they both play on travel baseball and softball teams out of Chillicothe, so we are never home. We never have time for these things. We haven’t done a whole lot of updates around the house in the last 12, 13 years.”
In addition to yard work, painting bedrooms and bathrooms, playing with their pets, cleaning up the stream on their property, and trying to maintain a routine for their own sanity, Peabody, her daughter Harley, who will be 14 this month, and 10-year-old son Hunter spent part of Monday making bread.
The recipe for the bread had belonged to Hunter and Harley’s late great-great-grandmother, Junie Skidmore. Skidmore’s daughter, Elsie Everretts, found her mother’s handwritten recipe for rich white bread around the beginning of the U.S.’s COVID-19 outbreak, and she passed it on to the Peabodys.
“Mamaw Elsie gave me the recipe when all of this started because she was worried about us not having bread,” Jamie Peabody said. “She said she wanted the kids to be able to make it and be able to kind of fend for themselves. We do cook a lot at home, but we don’t bake a whole lot. Our mamaw Elsie said her mom probably had this recipe at least since the seventies, and she found it the other day when she was going through some cookbooks.”
According to Peabody, Everretts, who’s now 85, can remember her mother making bread from this recipe when she was a teenager.
Peabody said even though she had a mixer, they decided to make the bread by hand because they didn’t feel like Skidmore would have used one.
Peabody said Hunter and Harley had been doing schoolwork while she started the dough, but after Peabody got tired from mixing the ingredients together, Hunter took over. Peabody suspects his initial motivation was to get out of his homework, but once he discovered how fun it was, he was invested.
“He kneaded it, and we sat and let it rise, and he kneaded it again,” Peabody said. “He did a lot of work.”
Harley also took a break from homework to work on the bread.
Hunter told The Times-Gazette, “It was a lot of fun, but it was hard. The only part that wasn’t fun was when it got stuck all over your hands.”
Peabody said the bread turned out well, even though it was their first attempt at baking bread.
“They were a little bit lopsided, but I was really surprised they turned out really well,” Peabody said. “Elsie was very surprised they turned out as well as they did because she said usually when you make your first batch, they’re as hard as a rock.”
In addition to the handwritten bread recipe, Peabody said Everretts also gave her a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook from the ’60s that had also belonged to Skidmore. Using Junie Skidmore’s recipe and the cookbook, the Peabodys were able to figure out how to complete each step in the bread-making process.
“The recipe was great, but there’s so much more that, if you don’t bake, you have no idea how much work goes into it,” Peabody said.
Peabody shared a picture of the finished products in the comments of Greenfield Exempted Village School District’s Monday virtual spirit week Facebook post. The theme for Monday was “teachable moments.”
GEVSD Superintendent Quincey Gray told The Times-Gazette she thinks community members are using this time to try to slow down and spend time with one another.
“It’s just nice to see people trying to pull together to make the best out of the situation. You have to make the best out of it,” Gray said.
The Peabodys aren’t just using their increased time together to enjoy each other’s company, catch up on yard work, and bake bread, though.
“I think it’s important to do these things as a family because kids really need to realize that not everything comes as easily as buying a loaf of bread at the store,” Jamie Peabody said. “You have to sit and wait and take your time, and then you see what comes of it. We’re showing the kids that everybody loves this bread; everybody loves the flowers and trees they’re planting. It’s really just so they can understand and realize that their hard work does actually mean something.”
Junie Skidmore’s rich white bread recipe:
*2 packages of yeast
*2 c. warm water
*1/2 c. sugar
*1 tbsp. salt
*1/4 salad oil
*6 to 6 1/2 c. flour
Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in sugar, salt, eggs, oil, and 3 cups of flour. Beat until smooth. Mix enough flour to make it easy to handle. Knead on floured board. Cover and let rise until doubled or one hour. Can refrigerate for 3 or 4 days. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.