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Time Travel

The Joy of Time Travel #

The staff at Cindy's school have organized a weekly Soup Day to keep each other warm and nourished through fall and winter. Every Thursday, two teachers bring soup and bread to supplement the staff lunch. This was Cindy's week to bring the food and, since I'm at home these days, I was commissioned to do the cooking.

It was the most fun I've had in ages. The quantities were small (six dozen buns and a big pot of soup) but it was pretty much the limit of what our small apartment kitchen could handle. I needed to spread things out, both in time and counter space, to make it all work.

The soup was first. Sandy's Mediterranean Lentil Soup. It was one of those special treats borne of the bakery. Back in 2013, we started making all sorts of funky flatbreads at Orange Boot. We loved them, and a few of our regulars loved them, but we noticed they caused a bit of confusion with some customers. What do we serve with this? was a common question. So we hatched this plan to publish recipe cards of our bakers' favourite recipes; items that would pair well with the flatbreads. Sandy brought her favourite soup recipe and it quickly became my favourite soup of all time.

I still have one of the Orange Boot recipe cards. One look at the card and I was right back at the bakery. Working with Sandy and Teisha and Heather, thinking about the conversations we'd have, how Teisha would make the worlds strongest pot of coffee every morning at 5AM, how we'd be moving so quickly but having a great time most of the time. Dancing the baking dance. Always keeping our hands moving. Back in the kitchen, I found myself making up a goofy song to go along with my onion chopping, like the songs I used to make up while we were dividing dough.

When it came time to make the dinner rolls, the time travel was even stronger. I kept going back and back and back. Mixing dough by hand in my huge silver bowl, like I did in the garage at the Backyard Bakery. Shaping the buns, quickly, efficiently, two handed, like I did every morning at the bakery. I could divide, shape and pan up 3 dozen buns in under 10 minutes back then. It wasn't "back then", however; in my mind, I was at Orange Boot. I was standing at the left end of our long maple bench, standing in my dusty, flour-crusted Keen shoes, wearing my orange t-shirt and checked baker pants, cutting dough in the manual divider with the wonky wheel, and making my way through the stack of round Cambro buckets, each with enough dough for three dozen buns, perfectly fermented and ready to go. White buns, country buns, whole wheat buns. Keep moving, there's a timer gonna start beeping soon, the Rye will need dividing, gotta get the buns shaped first...

It was all there. All of it. Even though it was over in an instant, as I was only shaping 12 rolls at a time in the apartment. But every time I shaped another dozen rolls, pop, I had teleported back to the bench at Orange Boot.

For the final two dozen buns, I took a different journey. I noticed the table I was using, our dinged up, wooden kitchen table, painted green over who knows what other layers, screws showing through the top and painted over, one of the few artifacts we brought with us from Regina. A proper farm table, but small enough that it's really a desk. Farm table, farm table...pop, I was at the farm south of Moose Jaw, baking with my Grandma in her big kitchen. Coffee cups for measuring, chipped, enamel-coated mixing bowls, margarine or Mazola because it was cheaper than butter.

My kitchen table and her kitchen table both had the perfect texture for working with dough. Smooth but not too smooth. A bit of grab so that the table acts as a third hand. And as I thought of Grandma and the farm, the table top didn't seem as low anymore. Perhaps I shrunk a little, back to 10 year old Mark height.

Sometimes I wonder if we humans ever experience anything truly new. Is it even possible? I mean, how can we describe anything, or share anything, or experience anything without automatically comparing it to something we already know?

We see something and immediately our brain asks, hmmm, what does that remind me of? We need an anchor so we know how to file this new thing. Where do we put it so we can find it again?

I have no idea how it all works. None. But I sure am glad our brains do all that filing, so we can travel back every once in a while and be with the people we love, but have not seen in a long, long while.

Webinar Alert:  Telling the story of your bakery

There is still time to sign up for the Baking Association of Canada webinar this Tuesday, November 14 at noon PT (3pm ET.)  I will be giving a talk about storytelling at the bakery; being honest, being vulnerable and having fun while you build strong connections with your customers, staff and the community at large.

I just wrapped up a dry run with the webinar organizers on Friday.  That was a lot of fun and my spidey-sense is telling my the webinar itself will be a lot of fun too.

The webinar is free to join, if you register you’ll get a link to the recording in case the time doesn’t work, and my goodness I could use a few friendly faces in the audience.  So if this grabs your fancy, sign up here.  

This Weeks Podcast: Ed and Natasha Tatton

The podcast is back after a bit of hiatus, with a great talk with Ed and Natasha Tatton.  Their new book, BReD: Sourdough loaves, small breads and other plant-based baking is out today in bookstores across the land, and it's a triumph for fine plant-based baking.

Ed's been on the show before, back in 2021 (Episode 128) but a lot has changed for Ed and the bakery in that time.  Rebuilding a baking crew after Covid, dealing with soaring costs, getting certified as a B-Corp, and of course, writing this amazing cookbook.

We talk about all of it and pay special attention to two areas:  their commitment to plant based baking and cooking and bringing a huge range of flavours to their baking.  Natasha's leadership in vegan living and cooking paired with Ed's flair for flavour combinations make for a stellar partnership, whether on the page or at their bakery in Whistler BC.

It's a fun and far ranging conversation, and is a fitting kickoff to the new season of Rise Up.   You can listen to the conversation right here.

Notes from the blog

I kept up my habit of shipping a blog post per day all week.  These are my favourites from this week:

  • Sharing the Tastes of Home, where my friend Claudia blew my mind when she told me about her restaurant and store in St. John’s, Newfoundland;

  • History is Fleeting, some thoughts on a new podcast I discovered and the radical cartoon Mr. Block from 1913;

  • A Modern Record Player, where I discover a way to listen to streaming music like it’s 1992;

  • Book Box Treasure, my love letter to Folio Society books and the craft of book binding.