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The Last Windrow: There's nothing much better than the smell of freshly baked bread

You have to try the Bohemian recipe for "houska," a sweet bread featuring raisins, almonds and other ingredients.

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Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

Blueberries for bread? It happened.

If you have a nose that works, is there not a more exceptional aroma than freshly baked bread? I know if you just imagine it, the fragrance will come back to you if you've ever experienced it. I think the cold winter weather we've had lately brings that memory back even more.

Growing up on the farm, my mother produced homemade bread on a regular basis. She used the wood/cob/coal-fired cookstove to manufacture loaf after loaf for the family of nine. If you happened to time it right, you would receive a slice of the still warm concoction on your way through the kitchen.

Homemade butter would melt on the surface of the slice and no other condiments were needed. I especially enjoyed the "heel" of the loaf.

When we traveled to Sioux City for trade, Dad would make a point of driving by the Old Home Bakery on our way into town. He would always suggest that we kids roll down the back seat windows as we passed by the factory so we could inhale the aromas of fresh bread baking. It was kind of a treat that didn't cost a dime.

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My Grandmother Bessie made a special kind of bread. The recipe came from her homeland in the Bohemian part of what is now the Czech Republic. The bread was called "houska," pronounced "hose-ka" by the Bohemians.

It is a sweet bread featuring raisins, almonds and other ingredients. Each year at Christmas, Bessie would bake a loaf of this bread for each of her nine kids.

I watched her knead the dough into submission. Then on the top she would apply braids of dough across the surface. It was a work of art.

You can look up the recipe on the internet and I will guarantee you that it is one of the best toasted breads you'll ever savor. My wife has perfected the recipe and it has been a good winter for myself and others she has gifted a loaf to.

One of my old, now departed friends, Johnny Knutson, told me a fun bread story. Johnny was known as a trapper around these parts and was born in the early 1900s nearby. He grew up hunting, fishing and trapping and did so until his late 90s.

He related a story to me on one of my interview visits to his home. It seems that one day his mother was baking bread for his family. She put the loaves on the window sill of the house to allow them to cool.

That afternoon a family of Native Americans riding in an open horse-drawn wagon came passing by and stopped at the end of Johnny's laneway. The whole family in the wagon watched as the father climbed out of the wagon and headed for the house.

They had been picking blueberries along the roadside and he had two cartons of the berries in his hands as he approached the house.

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Johnny's mother came out to meet him and asked what he had stopped for.

"We smelled your fresh bread baking and we wondered if we could trade you these blueberries for a loaf or two of your bread."

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John Wetrosky

Johnny's mother smiled and the deal was done. Johnny watched as the family eagerly devoured all of the fresh bread in the wagon before heading on.

Blueberries for homemade bread? Sounds like a good deal to me.

Try that "houska" recipe. You'll thank me.

See you next time. Okay?

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