Strong stuff, that Fleishmann’s yeast
In these modern times of commercial bakeries and refrigeration, I and many more Newfoundland housewives have chosen to buy, rather than bake, our own bread. I have separated myself completely from the drudgery of “up to my elbows” in dough. It is a far cry from my childhood, growing up in Branch, St. Mary’s Bay, in the 1950s, where women often had to mix bread six days out of seven.
Making bread was such a common chore that everyone took it for granted. You had your “Five Roses” or “Robin Hood” or “Cinderella” flour and of course, Fleischmann’s yeast. I can still see my mother preparing the yeast. Sometimes, when her bread was not as good as she expected, she would say, “That was a bad batch of yeast.”
The mention of yeast leads me to one particular event that happened one summer when I was about 10 years old. My mother was getting ready to “put bread in rise” (as she called it). Because the yeast in the bowl looked somewhat bland and lifeless, she directed me to get rid of it outdoors. There was no such thing as garbage pickup in those days, so I just threw the yeast out on the grass in our nearby meadow.
Now my family, like many others, supplemented its fishery income by keeping some farm animals. Along with cows, sheep and a horse, we had about 30 hens. During the daytime, our flock of poultry knew no boundaries. Hens wandered freely wherever they wanted to go, pecking here and there as they are known to do. We were quite accustomed to seeing them around and we hardly noticed their presence.
Passed out hens
I remember well that day of the yeast fiasco. After supper, our greatuncle Jack came into our house for his daily visit. “There’s something wrong with your hens, John,” he said to my father. “Some of ‘em are going around in circles and some are stretched out in the lane.”
Sure enough, when we checked outside, we found what would be referred to in these times as a drunken orgy. The hens that had passed out were easy to transport to the stable but we had a hell of a time trying to nab the ones that were just tipsy. The big rooster’s ego, which was always very healthy, was inflated tenfold and he was strutting and crowing and making amorous advances to everything in sight.
My father had to lock him away in the cellar to himself. My mother figured out that the rooster and his harem must have gorged themselves on the bad batch of yeast that I threw out. She surmised that since yeast is used to ferment beer and whiskey, there must have been something in the product that caused inebriation in the unsuspecting animals. Strong stuff ! That Fleischmann’s!
To make a long story short, the next day they were all back on their legs. Sick, sober and sorry maybe, but doing OK. The rooster was released from solitary confinement and he pranced around the stable yard again, though much less ardently than before.
I heard my father say that several times during the day he eyed many of the hens making their way to the corner of the meadow where they had accidentally encountered the intoxicating yeast the day before. My mother commented that they were probably like some humans she knew and it would take a lot more than one hangover to teach them a lesson.