Author recalls her family’s
kitchen aromas as therapy
When she lost her job as a magazine editor after 31 years in the profession, Elinor Allcott Griffith ’ 71 went home and did just what her father had taught her to do when the going gets
rough: She baked bread.
It was not so much that she longed for the taste of the molasses-
and-brown-sugar-sweetened, oat-studded loaf, but for the flour-
dusted ritual of creating it in her hands. As she writes in her recent
cookbook-memoir, comfort came from hearing her father’s voice in
her ear, measuring the sugar,
punching down the dough
and eventually breathing in
the aroma of freshly baked
bread, just as she had done
throughout her childhood.
Griffith’s father, John
Allcott Jr., made his living
not as a baker but as an art
professor. He chaired UNC’s
art department in the 1940s
and ’50s, championing the
arts at the University and
throughout the state for
decades. Her mother, June
Allcott, also an artist, helped
create a pioneering UNC course for women returning to the
workforce after being homemakers.
The Allcotts raised four children in Chapel Hill, teaching them
the art of bold, joyful living, in part through a robust love of cook-
ing and eating together.
In her book, The Virtues of Cooking: Recipes to Uplift Family
Through Food, Griffith chronicles her life and the recipes that
have sustained and enriched it, beginning with her father’s bread.
She often would find him making the loaves in the family’s galley
kitchen. “One of the seminal things that drove me to share this was
this memory of bread baking with my dad,” she said.
The Allcotts made friends by sharing food, with the art professor
giving away more than 1,000 loaves of what became known around
Chapel Hill as “John’s Friendship Bread.”
The ritual of bread-making was about sharing time with his
family as well.
“Dad could have been incredibly preoccupied at that point,
about whatever was going on in the world, but it didn’t feel like
that to me,” she says. “As a kid to be there and to be helping out, I
felt like I was the center of attention. That, to me, is still the most
powerful part. I think parents don’t realize something even as small