Travel and bakeries go hand in hand.
Food for the soul, Cape Breton style.
My childhood was dominated by homemade bread, giant soft molasses drop cookies known as “Fat Archies”, chocolate-coconut-oatmeal no bake ”Spider Cookies”, cinnamon buns, gingerbread cake, oatcakes, date squares, brown sugar fudge, banana bread, apple crisp, shortbread snowball cookies, and fuarag – an olden Scottish Gaelic dish of stiff whipped cream and toasted fine oats, with good luck tokens of rings and coins hidden inside. And there were biscuits.
By contrast, good biscuits made up for a myriad of character flaws. It seemed an inability to remember choir schedule, dress your kids properly, or keep your hand out of the community centre’s accounts could all be (somewhat) forgiven if you were a good, reliable, provider of delicious biscuits.
A biscuit said a lot about a person... good biscuits made up for a myriad of character flaws.
Bakeries and backpacking.
Bakeries were also a useful means of coin consumption. It seems like ancient history now, but just before the Euro came out, travelers were left to juggle multiple currencies and coinage. Bills were easy enough to manage, but coins were another matter altogether. And I had nothing but coins! I had previously worked at a student centre in England and the departing students had left fistfuls of 5 and 10 cent pieces from countries around Europe. Mason jars of coins lined the shelves of the housekeeping department and, when I left to travel, the jars were mine to bring along. Talk about weighing down a pack! In Paris, I paid a highly unimpressed hostel with 1 Franc coins, while an apple crepe was purchased down the street in 10 cent pieces. I did a great job of using up these coins – my last one cent pieces were carefully counted out to buy a turnover in the train station before moving on to Italy.
Bakers, bread, and some food for thought.
Show me a bakery tucked around a corner, where the owner seems to know everyone who comes through the door, where the staff look like they actually eat the products they sell, where the displays are humble but the smell brings you to your knees.
This is where I want to be. I’ll trust these people on sight and they’ll have me as a loyal customer - the kind who never fails to drop in, even if years might pass between visits. Bakers are good people. They are the heart and soul of a community. They make and share bread, which is one of the oldest languages on earth.
Bakeries Worth Visiting
Homely Maid – Eastbourn, England
Ted’s Bakery – North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii.
Maison Baguettes - Ottawa, Canada
Scone Witch - Ottawa, Canada
Shining Waters – Mabou, Nova Scotia, Canada
Aucoin’s Bakery – Cheticamp, Nova Scotia, Canada. Any store worth its salt in Inverness County will sell “Cheticamp bread”.
Fortress Louisburg – National Historic Site on Cape Breton Island, Canada. Go for the fresh baked bread from the wood ovens and for the spiced bread pudding cake in the soldier’s café.
Café Concerto – York, England. Technically a café/bistro, it’s their bread pudding that you’re after here.
As always, I welcome and encourage your comments. What's your favourite treat to pick up at a bakery?
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