An indubitable fact: my grandma, Nannie, could make the best Snickerdoodle cookies. Pity, then, that this is not her claim to fame (or is it infamy) in her small hometown. For it is there, in the otherwise peaceful agricultural environs of California's San Joaquin Valley, that the sweetest little old lady this side of Pasadena was known for something the locals would deridingly call disciplinary loaf.

Nannie was a God fearing woman who attended church, well, religiously. And as the ever mindful church-goer, Nannie believed it was her duty to bake pumpkin pie for the church bake sale. At least I think it was pumpkin pie; I didn't taste it since my Mom forbade me to ever eat something Nannie had cooked unless Mom tasted it first: "And if I keel over, don't eat it!" Nannie's pies were the only pastries that ended up under the bake sale table. On this one and only subject the congregation unanimously agreed: if Myrtle brought a pie to any potluck/bake sale/fund-raiser, quickly stick it under and away from everything edible. Or send it to the Catholic Church across the street.

She had good intentions, as the enchilada casserole for the church picnic story will attest. As she was backing out of her Dodge Rambler with her hot and steaming dish, every church member would whisper ahead, just like in the game Telephone, warning the next one to "beware of the enchilada casserole." Nannie proudly placed the suspect dish on the buffet table with all the other macaroni-pork and beans-stroganoffs-and-fried chickens, and saw her good friend, Mrs. Carmecito, one of the kindest ladies in the church. Upon the execution of what would church lore would tag as The Carmecito Signal, The Nannie Squad would descend upon the blue and white Corningware dish and whisk it under the table where it could do no harm. One time Einstein, who was Mrs. Carmecito's little terrier dog, sniffed out the dish under the table, and proceeded to down half the entrée. Poor little Einstein was soon seen scooting his bottom across the ground and howling through the duration of the picnic. Witnesses swear they saw flames shooting out of poor little Einstein's derriere. The enchiladas that burned his bottom on the way out were a warning: Woe betides the victims of Myrtle's casserole.

One time she actually made pyracantha jam. I really don't even know what a pyracantha is, but my mom insists to this day that they are poisonous berries. Nannie brought a couple of jars over to our house and Mom called Dad to say that his mother was trying to kill us with pyracantha jam. Dad told her to not be silly; that he had eaten Nannie's cooking all his life and he was still alive. Mom just muttered, "That explains it."

Back to the disciplinary loaf: Someone in the town finally named it that because no one knew what else to call it. When Nannie would make dinner for her boys, she would save all the leftovers. At the end of the week, she would take her trusty meat grinder and grind up whatever leftovers she had. Salmon, apple cobbler, leftover tuna sandwiches, spaghetti, you name it; she put it in the meat grinder. It would emerge like a grey piece of matter that she would form it into blocks. This spread is what she would serve her guests and children for lunch, neatly sandwiched between two slices of bread. (Everyone knew not to go to Myrtle's for lunch.) Nannie could never understand why she had no visitors around the noon hour. Even the Fuller Brush Men would take the long way around between noon and two. She would invite them over sure enough, but everyone would bow out. And I really don't know how my Dad survived childhood as he reportedly took a DL sandwich for lunch everyday of his young life. He was a brave man. He once told me that when he arrived at school each day, his teacher, Miss Broad, changed his sandwich out for one she had made. They never told Nannie, as they didn't want to hurt her feelings, but I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Miss Broad for saving my dad's life.

But the loaf in and of itself was not the reason for the legend that is still to this day recounted from Bakersfield to Sacramento. Nannie's infamous loaf was responsible for saving Mr. Linden's life.

Nannie had caught wind that Mr. Linden was feeling a bit under the weather, so she showed up on his doorstep with a block of the grey matter and told him it was good for what ailed him. Tales of The Loaf had preceded Nannie, however, and after he had profusely thanked her for her thoughtfulness, he set the loaf on the kitchen counter for later disposal. Mr. Linden, heading for bed later that evening, decided he was in need of a snack. The loaf was still sitting on the table; he had forgotten to throw it away. At that moment he heard a noise in the far corner of the kitchen. A flip of the light switch revealed it was a big old bear, standing right there, two yards away from him. The back door was open but he was between the door and the bear. Just then the black bear reared up on its hind legs and began to growl. Mr. Linden thought he was a goner. Eagerly searching for a weapon, the closest thing within reach was Nannie's disciplinary loaf, which he grabbed and threw as hard as he could. He heard a loud thud as the loaf hit the bear's head, knocking the unsuspecting ursine unconscious. Mr. Linden made his escape and jetted to the nearest neighbor to call the animal control.

Nannie's disciplinary loaf made the paper. The whole town woke to the headline: Bear's Late Night Visit No Loafing Matter. Nannie never made disciplinary loaf again.

Author's Bio: 

Beth McCain is an author and writer in an array of genres. She and her husband, Lee, are instructors and lecturers in applying the Law of Attraction for attaining your desires in your life. If you would like to contact Beth, please visit: