Baking for a long time...
People often ask me how I got into baking, but the real interesting question is 'Why are you still baking?' Since 1980 I have baked at my own business, but since 1976 I have baked for others, either while apprenticing in Germany or working in Northampton, MA. The photos attached to this post are of our first location at 44 Main Street in Northampton. For those of you with long enough memories, these pictures might be familiar. For younger fans, the images, especially the vintage cars parked in front of the store, might feel archaic.
There are probably a lot of good reasons to not be still baking: the early morning hours (often getting up before the birds start singing), getting to bed early enough every night to be sufficiently refreshed and ready for work the next morning, the winter cold in the kitchen, the summer heat and humidity, the challenges of finding good help, the challenges of making a consistently good product from scratch every business day, the challenges of pleasing all our customers all the time. This act of unmitigated agency, creating something of value from scratch, working with mind and hand, surviving or failing on your own skills is not for the faint of heart. Had I fully thought out all the challenges back when we opened the shop on lower Main Street in 1980, I doubt that I would ever have started. The older I get and the more I know about what can go wrong, the more cautious I have become. Risk, the fearless leap into a dream, is for the young. So, why I started baking at age 25 is simple.
This week, a series of exchanges with two long-time customers underscored for me one reason why I am still baking. They both speak to longevity, to the passing of time, to making connections through my work over years with people's lives. The first was a post on our Facebook page from a customer who bought a hazelnut cake to take along when she and her husband eloped ten years ago. She remembered the cake as being delicious and actually still has a piece of it in her freezer. But what she wanted to know was whether we still made that cake and whether we could make a fresh one for their tenth anniversary. The second exchange was with a regular, local customer who has been shopping at the bakery for as long as we have been in business. She has fed our bread to her children for as long as they lived under her roof. Now that those children are grown and have kids of their own, Grandma has continued to bring our bread to them whenever she goes to visit in Connecticut. In fact, when her kids and her grand kids know that she's coming for a visit, they specifically request that she bring a white handled bag full of assorted bread from our bakery.
Knowing that our product has been a part of people's family lives, that our baked goods have played a part in the food history at their family table, makes me feel that baking all these years was well worth it.