Tommy Tucker’s brown bread… cheesy and barbecued

Baked cheesy bread

Little Tommy Tucker sings for his supper, What shall we give him? Brown bread and butter. How shall he cut it without a knife? How shall he marry without a wife?

Isla was entertaining us for the 17th time one morning with her latest ditty, as I took my sharp, serrated blade from the rack and a round, seedy loaf of whole-grain bread from the cupboard. She stopped and raised her shoulders, palms out.  “Hey, Vinny, why doesn’t Tommy have a knife?”

“I suspect the poor kid was on the streets,” I answered. “The poem was written… like 200 years ago. If you didn’t have a family to look after you then and you wanted to eat, you had to sing for your supper.”

“What’s bad about that?” asked Isla. She demonstrated with a few lines of Disney’s Let it go.

“Very nice,” said Vinny. “But it was a hard life for homeless kids back then… no welfare, no child support groups… no money period except for what you could scrounge off people.”

“Oh, no,” said Isla.

“Even if Tommy scored a hunk of bread and butter,” Vinny went on, “he wouldn’t have a knife to eat nicely with. And who would want to marry him if he didn’t have any manners?”

“If he could sing nice, I wouldn’t care about his manners,” Isla said. She tossed her hair and waved her arms in time to some imagined tune.

“Let’s make something easy today that we can eat without a knife,” I said. “Then if Tommy Tucker comes for lunch, he won’t feel embarrassed.”

I show Isla how to section the loaf into bite-sized squares. My knife slices the loaf neatly, first one way, then the other.  “We just have to make sure we don’t slice through the bottom crust,” I warn. “Now, let’s check the fridge for tasty scraps to stuff in the spaces. Then you can wrap the  whole thing in tin foil. I’ll put it on the barbecue so it gets all toasty and melted.”

“Instant lunch!” says Isla.

“It’s kind of an old-fashioned pizza thing from days of yore in Olde England, when Tommy Tucker was a boy.” says Vinny. “Now where’s that recipe?”

Cheesie bread

Tucker’s cheesy brown barbecue bread

  •  1 unsliced loaf whole-grain bread
  • 6-8 ounces mild cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
  • 6-8 ounces lean ham or chicken, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil or butter, melted
  • 1 onion sliced thinly & sauteed in coconut oil until caramelized
  • pepper to taste
  1. Preheat barbecue to 350 degrees or moderate heat.
  2. Cut bread lengthwise and width-wise without cutting through the bottom crust. Be patient cutting the second way and all will be good.
  3. Place on an oiled sheet of aluminum foil.
  4. Stick cheese and meat slices between the cuts.
  5. Combine the  oil and caramelized onion.  Drizzle over bread. Grind fresh pepper over everything.
  6. Wrap in foil; place on barbecue for 15 minutes.
  7. Unwrap the bread and bake 10 more minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Optional ideas

Instead of using cheddar cheese, combine a cup of goats cheese with a half cup of mayonnaise and spread it on one side of the bread slices, before cutting the second way. Then fill the spaces with the meat slices in the opposite direction.

Use catsup (we like home-made) if your kids are a fan and/or leave out the onion.

Spread the bread slices with garlic butter if you love these fragrant cloves.

Instead of onion, saute chopped red peppers or green onions to garnish the bread.

Or do what we did – make one half the way the adults like it and the other side especially for the kids.

Brown bread is what we eat in our house these days. That’s because white bread is made from refined flour, which has had its backbone knocked out of it. No backbone means not much fiber for you in the eating. If I don’t see whole-grain at the top of the ingredient list on the nutrition label, we usually choose some other loaf, even if it is more expensive.


“If Tommy was so poor, why did people give him expensive brown bread for his supper?” Isla asked.

“In those days, white flour was one of the world’s first processed foods,” Vinny said. “It was rare. Only rich people could afford it. Nowadays, it’s more expensive to make a nice seedy brown bread from whole-grain flour because that takes more time. But I think it’s worth every penny in good health.”

“Well let’s get cooking!” said Isla. “I’m hungry!”

Rhymes like Tommy Tucker were meant to get people thinking about problems, in times when not many people could read. Poems were fun to remember and could be shared easily. Rhymes with hidden stories were told,  to get people thinking about how they might be able to help.

If you are able to, perhaps there is a food bank near your house where you can help hungry kids like Tommy Tucker find good, wholesome food. Kids today shouldn’t have to sing for their supper.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jeannietay
    Jul 04, 2014 @ 11:44:45

    that looks very tempting!


  2. hellotofit
    Jun 24, 2014 @ 21:16:10

    Looks delicious!


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