...because life is delicious

Something Amazing

Oct 10, 2016 | Middle grade, Short Story

illustration by Heather Martin

It was Mollie’s first week in 3rd grade and the teacher, Mrs. Peabody, had given the class a project to plant a garden that they would take care of all year long. Each student was given a cup of dirt with holes on the bottom and got to choose from a variety of seed packets. There were seeds and bulbs for poppies, tulips, daffodils, pansies, oh – and let’s not forget the forget-me-nots! All the kids were excited and bickered over the seeds…everyone but Mollie. Mollie didn’t like any of them. At the end of the day, everyone planted their seed or bulb into their cup and labeled it with their name and the plant they chose. They lined them up on the window sill in neat rows. Mollie planted nothing but scribbled on her cup “Name: Mollie. Plant: Something Amazing”.

Mollie walked home thinking about what she could plant when a blue pick-up truck pulled up beside her. It was Mrs. Osipoff. Mrs. Osipoff and her husband were farmers and she was like a grandmother to Mollie. She often dropped by their apartment with baked goodies when she ran errands downtown. “Want a ride back home, cupcake? I’m on my way into town.” Mrs. Osipoff asked. She leaned out the window with a smile as wide as a slice of watermelon. “Yea!” Mollie replied, and scrambled into the truck with a helping hand from Mrs. Osipoff. “How was school?” She asked. Mollie told her about the garden project and how she didn’t like any of the flowers and wanted to plant something more special.

“Ah, I have just the thing for you, m’dear.” Mrs. Osipoff chuckled. She reached into the front pocket of her overalls and pulled out a seed. “Here, open your hand.” She put the seed in the middle of Mollie’s palm. “What is it?” Mollie asked, taking a closer look. Just then the truck drove over a pothole and the seed flew out of her hand and into the air. “Whoa there girl – you must not lose it!” Mrs. Osipoff snatched the seed out of the air and put it back in Mollie’s hand. “Just plant it and watch it grow. It will become something amazing.” She winked. “Well, here we are!” The truck jerked to a halt in front of a two story building with a shop below and apartments above. Mrs. Osipoff waved her out. “Run along now and let me know how it goes!” Mollie barely had the time to wave goodbye before the truck was already rattling down the road.

The next day at school, Mollie secretly planted the mystery seed into her cup. Everyone watered their seeds every week and soon green tips began to push out of the dirt. “They’re sprouting! They’re sprouting!” All the kids were excited. Mollie watched her sprout anxiously. It looked no different from the other sprouts. Several weeks went by and the sprouts grew bigger. Mollie’s sprout developed an antenna-like thing. Were they stems or leaves? Mollie couldn’t tell. It was as if the mystery seed was checking to see if the world was safe for it to come out, because soon it started to grow two, then three of the antennae-like things.

Months went by and the sprouts were starting to outgrow their cups. The class re-planted all their sprouts into a large planter box outside the classroom. They wrote their names and plant names on popsicle sticks and stuck them next to their sprouts. Again Mollie wrote, “Name: Mollie. Plant: Something Amazing”. Other kids started making fun of her plant and called it an alien spawn. Mollie started to doubt what Mrs. Osipoff said, but she continued to water the sprout weekly.

Soon it was spring. All the sprouts had grown into colorful flowers. Poppies were red. Tulips were orange. Daffodils were yellow. Pansies were purple. Oh – and let’s not forget the forget-me-nots. They were blue. But Mollie’s sprout was a green stick; a green stick topped with a cluster of spiky pods that looked like a braid on a bad hair day. It even had small yellow things that hung like insects to the pods. Maybe those were flowers? The kids taunted her. “Look, Mollie’s growing an alien weed. Alien weed!” Mrs. Peabody put a hand on Mollie’s shoulder. “Oh I’m sorry, there must have been a wrong seed in those packets.” Mollie wanted to cry and her cheeks felt hot. This was not something amazing.

That night, she stormed over to the Osipoff farm and knocked on their door. “Mrs. Osipoff! The seed you gave me was a dud!” She cried. “I watered it and took care of it for so long, and it became an ugly weed!” Mrs. Osipoff opened the door and swept Mollie up in her arms. “My, you’ve walked a long way! Don’t cry, cupcake. You have to trust me. The amazing part has yet to come!” Mollie sniffled and looked up. “Really?” Mrs. Osipoff nodded and pointed at the sun. “When it becomes summer, you will see. Keep watering it, okay?” She wiped the tears from Mollie’s cheek and gave her a ride home.

The next few months passed slowly for Mollie, but she watered her plant every week and tried her best to ignore the other children’s teasing. With their plants fully in bloom and beautiful, some of the children stopped watering their flowers. As the days grew hotter, many of the flowers started to die. But Mollie’s green stick was still greener than ever, and what’s more surprising, it grew taller and taller every week. Soon it was taller than Mollie.

As June approached, it started to change. It turned yellow and then golden brown. The cluster of pods were so heavy that the top of the stalk started to dip down towards the ground. Mollie wondered if something amazing was going to happen soon.

For the last day of class, Mrs. Peabody instructed everyone to do a show-and-tell about their plant and what they learned about gardening. The winner would get a medal. Mollie panicked. She did not know anything about her mystery plant and Mrs. Osipoff wouldn’t tell her anything. Mollie decided to take matters into her own hands. She measured the mystery plant, sketched pictures of it, and then spent hours in the town library looking through books about gardening and flowers to try to find something that matched her plant. But she couldn’t find anything. Mollie buried her head in her hands. She had one last idea. Since the Osipoffs were farmers, maybe she should look at farming books.

Fighting her exhaustion, she pulled out book after book and thumbed through the pages. Finally when she was about to give up, she caught a glance of a photo of a plant that looked just like her mystery weed. She read the caption, “Winter Wheat.” It was wheat! And the clusters were grains…grains of wheat! Mollie gained a spurt of energy and read all the books she could find about wheat. She read that if you eat the grains and find them firm and crunchy then the wheat was ready for harvest. She read about how wheat gets ground into flour and made into bread. She read about how growing wheat and other crops changed humans from being wandering hunters and gatherers to farmers who settled down in one place and grew crops. A single plant was able to change the human diet and culture. That was amazing!

On the last day of school, Mollie cut off the head of her wheat with scissors and gave each student a grain to sample. She started to tell them about all she learned when Mrs. Osipoff burst into the room with a toothy grin. Hanging on her arm was a basket with rolls of bread and fresh-churned butter in a jar. “Mrs. Osipoff!” Mollie exclaimed, “You were right!” Mrs. Osipoff and Mrs. Peabody winked at each other as Mrs. Osipoff weaved her way through the aisles of seats towards Mollie. The delicious scent of toasted wheat and honey wafted behind her and the students sat up high in their chairs and wiped drool from their face. “Of course I was right, cupcake.” Mrs. Osipoff huffed. “Now continue your show-and-tell”. As Mollie continued sharing what she learned, Mrs. Osipoff distributed rolls of warm bread slathered in butter to all the students.

Mollie won the medal, of course. Mrs. Peabody even wrote a special note on the back that read, “It truly was ‘something amazing’!

Honey Wheat Rolls

makes 8 rolls

prep time: 2 hours 15 minutes
cook time: 25 minutes
total time: 2 hours 30 minutes


4 1/2 oz water

1 packet active dry yeast (1/4 oz)

5 oz milk

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

2 oz honey (1/4 cup)

1 oz softened butter (2 tbsp)

1 1/4 tsp sea salt

2 cups all purpose flour


4 1/2 oz water

1 packet active dry yeast (1/4 oz)

5 oz milk

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

2 oz honey (1/4 cup)

1 oz softened butter (2 tbsp)

1 1/4 tsp sea salt

2 cups all purpose flour


Heat the water in the microwave so that it is barely warm to the touch. If it’s too hot for your finger, then it’s too hot for the yeast. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let it absorb for two minutes. Then, stir the yeast to dissolve it and pour the yeast water into a large bowl. Heat the milk the same as the water and add it to the yeast water.

Add the whole wheat flour. Blend it in with a fork until moist. Let it sit for five minutes. You can see it swell up as it absorbs more water.

In a smaller bowl, mix the salt and butter together until the salt has mostly dissolved into the melted butter and then add the honey. Pour this mixture into the flour and blend in with the fork.

Add the All Purpose flour to the mixing bowl. Use a plastic spatula, bowl scraper or a wooden spoon to blend the flour into the dough.

After one minute of stirring, most of the flour will be moist but there will still be some parts that are dry. Scrape all the ingredients onto a cutting board to finish mixing until the flour is moist. Do not dust the cutting board or your hands with flour.

Put a bowl of cool water nearby so you can dip your hands in it while you work.

Wet your hands and start smearing the dough away from you on the cutting board. Smear as far as you can, scrape up all the dough and bring it back toward the part of the cutting board closer to your tummy. Repeat this process for two minutes. The dough will be really sticky. This is good. Don’t add flour to it and don’t put any flour on your hands, either. 

Let the dough rest for two minutes. Try to peel some of the dough off your hands and put it back with the dough on the cutting board if you want. But don’t wash your hands.

After the two minute rest, smear the dough across the cutting board again, like before. This time, smear and scrape for three minutes. Dip your hands in water once in a while and you’ll see how that makes it easier for you.

The dough should start to hold together and become a little rubbery and elastic. GREAT! It’s still sticky, though, so dip your hands in water to scrape all the rest of the dough from your hands and return it to the pile of dough on the cutting board. Use wet hands to gather all the dough into a ball. Put it back in the mixing bowl.

Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm spot (about 85 degrees) for one hour and 15 minutes. Halfway through this time, use wet hands to knock any air bubbles from the dough and form it into a ball again.

After one hour and 15 minutes, scrape the dough from the bowl and place it on the cutting board. Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Wet your hands and form each of the pieces into a small ball.

Line a baking tray with a piece of parchment paper. Coat the paper lightly with canola or other light-flavored oil. Place the dough balls on the tray, spacing them evenly. Use a wet hand to flatten each of the balls so they look like hamburger patties.

Gently drape a piece of plastic wrap over the top of the rolls. Place the tray in the warm spot from earlier.

Let the rolls get light and airy and the tray for 40 minutes. Bakers say, “Let the rolls PROOF”. Gently peel off the plastic wrap.

Adjust the oven rack so that the rolls will bake just a little bit higher than the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

You can brush the rolls gently with milk or cool melted butter. Or, you can sift some flour over them.

Bake the rolls for a total of 15 to 18 minutes. After the first 10 minutes, you might have to rotate the pan if the rolls are baking unevenly. If you don’t have to rotate them, it’s better to leave them alone. Bake them just until they look yummy-as light or dark as you prefer.

Use mitts to remove the tray. Place the tray on a cooling rack and let the rolls rest for 15 minutes before you eat them.



Recipe by Michael Kalanty

Author’s Notes

Kitchen tips from Chef Mike
You can use Kosher or Sea Salt in place of table salt for better flavor, but be sure to use 1 1/2 teaspoons because the bigger flakes take up more room on the spoon.

A tip for measuring dry ingredients is to use the “Scoop and Sweep” method. Scoop the cup directly into the flour and then use the back of a knife or ruler to sweep away the extra flour heaped on top. The cup should be filled exactly to the rim.

A tip for measuring liquid ingredients is to place the liquid measuring cup level on the counter and pour in the liquid until just above the line. It is impossible for all the liquid to be poured back out as some always stays behind, so when you measure, fill it to just a tiny bit higher than the line.

Bakers don’t use the term “recipes”, they call them “formulas” instead.

Remember, the kitchen is full of dangers–sharp knives, hot oven doors, and sometimes slippery floors. Be safe. Work carefully. And clean up as you work. Real bakers have all the dishes done by the time the breads come out of the oven.


In the classroom
I met Michael Kalanty at Stanford University while attending his bread talk and book signing event. Michael taught that bread could have great flavor while being healthy and nutritious – filled with probiotics and have a low glycemic index (The glycemic index measures how quickly different foods dump sugar into your bloodstream. Foods that have a low glycemic index means that the food contains fiber and that helps slow the process of sugar delivery in your bloodstream).

Michael talked about the growing trend of Modern Breads made from Wild Yeast Cultures and we sampled bread from craft bakers in the area. Michael encouraged us to support the local farmer-miller-craft baker economy by buying whole grain flours or bread products made from whole grain flours.


In life
After meeting Michael and returning home from the event with a freshly signed copy of his How To Bake MORE Bread in my hands, I wrote this story about a child discovering wheat. I later reached out to Michael about iamthefirstbite and asked if he could share a healthy simple bread recipe that kids would enjoy making. I’m so excited to be able to share his honey wheat rolls recipe here for you! Thank you Michael!