Paul Heinz

Original Fiction, Music and Essays

Another Ponzi Scheme: Friendship Bread

(Note: this is an edited version of a previous essay.  This version will appear soon on Milwaukee's NPR affiliate: 89.7 WUWM)


It’s that time of year again, and the truth is out: those who gleefully hand out kits of homemade friendship bread are in fact NOT kind and warmhearted people, but rather mean-spirited souls who exult in the false hopes and misfortunes of others.

I recently had the honor of receiving the “Friendship Treatment” from Jan, who en route to her yoga class stopped by to offer me a bag filled with a thick, beige liquid along with a printout of instructions. “It’s a ten-day process, and we’re already on day four, so enjoy!” she said, practically skipping back to her van, certain that she’d helped to spread a little sunshine in my dim world, and I admit that initially I was flattered: someone had made bread for me! How thoughtful. How quaint.

For those who haven’t been indoctrinated into the world of friendship bread, the process is basically a ponzi scheme without the financial implications. You start with a few ingredients and mix them in a Ziplock bag. For the next ten days, you squeeze the bag a few times and occasionally add an ingredient or two. Eventually, you divide the mix into four different bags: one that will provide two loaves of bread for yourself, and the rest to be distributed to three friends who will repeat the process, and so on, until every man, woman and child on the planet has prepared, baked and eaten two loaves of bread.

It wasn’t until day ten that I realized just what a scam this bread-making business is. I learned that none of the previous nine days had been necessary at all, because I now had to empty practically every bag, box and bottle in my cupboard to finish the process.

Here are the ingredients I added on day ten:

Sugar, milk, flour, oil, MORE sugar, vanilla, eggs, baking powder, salt, MORE flour, MORE milk, baking soda, instant vanilla pudding mix and cinnamon.

Seriously. I’d basically fallen for a variation of the story “Stone Soup,” in which a man tricks a community to cook a big vat of soup by asking each citizen to add an ingredient, except in this version of the story, I was a community of one.

I have half a mind to give my friend a Ziplock bag filled with water and say, “Here’s a bag of friendship soup. Enjoy!”

So thanks anyway, but I’m going to pass on this charming tradition in the future. You want to be a friend? Bring a six-pack of Guinness over sometime, and if you really must include something baked, offer me your thoughts on world peace.

Copyright, 2017, Paul Heinz, All Right Reserved