Vice serves up delicous bread and treats, along with a slice of history
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By ANNETTE HARVISON
There’s not much like the taste and texture of a freshly baked loaf of homemade bread.
It’s a kitchen art that has declined over the years. Fleischman’s yeast and Sunbeam bread cut the need to knead at home. The slow rise of homemade bread took a fast decline, but there are those that still hold tight to the recipes that were passed from generation to generation from mother (or grandmother) to daughter. Some of these recipes and old-fashioned methods may be lost between the pages of an old cookbook, but some are still alive and thriving in a few, select kitchens.
Gladys Vice said she has kept up a bread starter for over 30 years, and each week she ‘feeds’ the mixture that is used to make homemade bread and cinnamon rolls. And they are delicious.
Vice said she grew up in the kitchen cooking with her mother, and there she learned about cooking roasts with gravy and savory dishes. When Vice got married, she moved to North Carolina with her husband, where they lived near his family. During her years in North Carolina, Vice said she added new methods to her cooking, such as cooking with seafood and cooking those things that simmered in a pot all day.
Though she did learn to make bread while in North Carolina, she didn’t ever learn how to make bread well, Vice said. It was a long and tedious process, and she said she just didn’t ever get the hang of it. When her husband passed away, Vice moved back to Mississippi with her daughters. The small family moved to Jackson County. It was while they lived in the Helena community that Vice found her knack for baking bread.
“I wasn’t baking bread when I moved to Jackson County,” Vice said. “The pastor’s wife baked bread and I was interested in learning.”
In 1987, the pastor’s wife brought Vice a jar with a fermented substance in it and told her it was the ‘starter’ for the bread dough. This starter makes a sourdough bread and can be made at home with just a few simple ingredients, but you don’t start from scratch each time you make it. Vice’s starter has been going strong since the pastor’s wife first gave her the quart-size Mason jar and directions on how to maintain it. And it is a science experiment right in your own kitchen.
The starter must be fed every few days, Vice said. The starter doesn’t eat cheeseburgers or pizza. In fact, the starter likes only a few simple ingredients for its meals. Vice will add a small amount of instant potato flakes, sugar and warm water. She said she will mix it well then let it sit on the counter for several hours before pouring the top half out of the jar. The liquid that is poured off the top can be used to make bread, or it can be shared to begin another starter.
“What gets poured out can make a new batch of starter,” Vice said. “I have given away so many starters. My granddaughter keeps hers going.”
While living in Helena, Vice met her second husband and gained two sons as well as a mother-in-law that loved to bake. She said it was then that her passion for baking grew. She learned how to maintain the bread starter well, and she said the family enjoyed the freshly baked loaves. After mastering the bread, Vice began making homemade cinnamon rolls, too. She said the recipe she uses is simple and it isn’t tedious or complicated.
“The kids enjoy me making bread when we get together,” Vice said. “I always have to make bread. It makes really good sandwiches, and it makes an awesome grilled cheese.”
Vice said she has come close to losing the starter at one time. It had gotten pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten for a while, and when she found it, she said she was worried that she would have to pour it out.
“I poured the starter down real low,” Vice said. “I kept feeding it every three days and pouring off the top. Finally, the good overtook the bad and I had saved it.”
The starter can be maintained without making bread, Vice said.
“All I have to do is keep feeding it,” Vice said. “If I didn’t make bread for a whole year, I could keep the starter going.”
Most of the bread she makes is donated to various charities, Vice said. She has one lady who comes by every few weeks to get three loaves of bread. She enjoys baking the homemade goods and sharing with the community. Vice said a few businesses in town will often call her and request her popular cinnamon rolls for the office meeting.
Vice is an active member of the Richton community. She is the President of the Garden Club where she works with other members to maintain the upkeep and decorations at the Town Square park.