I’ve stated a couple times in the recent essays on frugality (see Homestead Core Values: Frugality) that one of our advantages in keeping costs low is our love of simple food. I don’t think there’s a much simpler food anywhere than pilot bread.
For some unknown reason, Alaskans and Hawaiians eat a lot of pilot bread. The State of Alaska put out an Alaskan food pyramid some time ago, which actually includes pilot bread!
I have enjoyed a long and disparate relationship with this dry, somewhat bland flat cracker. I remember it in our pantry soon after Mom and Dad moved us back to Alaska when I was a child.
About the time we returned to Alaska, my brother and I began taking more responsibility for making our own after school snacks under Mom’s suggestions and/or direction. Mostly, we hoped for something sweet, like cookies. Often, she suggested we spread peanut butter and jam on a piece of pilot bread. We began to resent pilot bread, as it represented a “sensible” snack rather than something we really craved.
By the time I moved back to Alaska as an adult, I’d warmed to pilot bread considerably. As soon as I saw it in the stores, I tried it again; it has virtually disappeared in most grocery stores down south. I found I liked it so much that I often eat it plain, rather than spreading it with something like butter, peanut butter and jam (which now seems a special treat to me) marmite, or Nutella®.
At work, I generally kept a box of pilot bread in my desk, for lunch or an afternoon snack of plain crackers and a cup of coffee or water. I liked spreading something on it, but to this day I’ll happily munch them plain, just as most people would eat soda crackers.
This led to a humorous moment at a church service we attended in Juneau. The pastor preached on hunger, and illustrated his point with a personal anecdote. He said, “Have you ever been really hungry? I got lost in the woods once, and spent most of the day trying to get back to the road.” He went on to describe the ordeal, ending with the comment, “…and the whole time, all I had to eat was a couple of lousy rounds of pilot bread covered in peanut butter!”
He lost me completely. Instead of meditating on his real point, all I could think was: “You had peanut butter?”
Ironically, pilot bread seems to be on its way out. Even in Alaskan grocery stores, it’s harder to find. When it is available, it’s often surprisingly expensive. We generally buy it only from Costco. If we can’t do that, we usually do without. I’m kind of okay with that, because my favorite topping, marmite, is even more rare here. Generally, we have to go to Whitehorse in Canada to get it.
I’ve found recipes for making our own pilot bread, which led me to learning the factoid with which I opened this essay. I haven’t tried it yet. If we’re going to make crackers, we have many other, far more nutritious recipes to choose from.
However, my craving for even a plain pilot bread indicates that my tastes in food are quite simple. If I can get excited over one of these slabs of hard cracker, I can be happy with a lot less complicated or expensive foods than many people. It also indicates that when I do eat something fancier, I may appreciate it more than some others might.