A Celebration of the Ordinary
“Eating Bread Is Soon Forgot” so they say, and that was a forgotten history too until something happened until recently.
Food eaten is transitory. We celebrate anticipation of eating food and sometimes refer to a meal eaten but most of what is eaten is once gone, forgotten. A recent purchase reminded me of the bakers who fed us, the Cross Street bakery and confectionery where Leah worked; a first taste of a baked custard tart, called simply “a Custard” by most people…a wonderful flavour; the Bakers and Confectioners in Rhodes where Elsie Tippett served us with amazing pastries and bread and pies with or without hot gravy from a jug – and there were fruit pies (apple and wimberry) too! Duncan Foster’s in Middleton for a treat. There was also a shop that was closed permanently, always referred to by my father as “Meggets” or “Meggerts” – a Swiss gentleman who was a master baker, confectioner and chocolatier in whom rested all the knowledge and skills for his wonderful shop. Sadly, according to my father, Mr Meggert died very suddenly and the shop just closed.
I used to pass another bakers called Wagstaffe’s wanting to buy something on the way home. But it always appeared closed. Then elsewhere there was a little co-operative bakers where Mary worked and we bought our daily loaf which was made by Whittle’s Bakery in the far-off lands. That was a good day-to-day bread too and tasted good. All this of course in the years BA (before Asda).
Tonight I remembered bread and a sauage; and not just because I don’t eat sausages anymore, but because I remembered that I wanted as a child, to try a Hot Dog. It tasted very good; my mother cooked the sausages (chipolatas) and we ate them in what we called a “Bunny”. This was a finger roll of white bread. Even though I remembered the sausage; its texture; its flavour and the ketchup that was put on it – and may I say, it was very tasty – it was the bread that I remembered because it was tasty too and a special texture.
The bunnys came from one of Duncan Foster’s shops; a shop in a chain of bread shops and different from most of the bakers round about where we lived. Not to imply here in any way that they were either inferior or that any of their products was sub-standard, far from it; our little town had many prize bakers and confectioners. No, it is simply that the “Bunny” was party bread, somewhat special and very soft. They were made in batches and sold a few at a time and sometimes, you might have to tear one from the other. I remember doing that too and seeing the white bread miraculously appear at the side, with no crust.
This was not the same thing as a Sausage Sandwich either. Sausages were sliced when placed between two slices of bread (in our house anyway) and the sandwich was really to fill you with bread and not sausage. This Hot Dog was a sausage, fried and unsliced, in less bread – a luxury roll – and that was something else completely. This was food for its own sake; food to enjoy. So I enjoyed both the bread and the sausage. As this sausage was eaten outside too, I now think that this must have been at Bonfire Night (November 5th).
But came the day and I left the town and forgot – well, I didn’t quite forget. Truly bread never tasted the same nor was it called by the same names again. And when I came back there to visit, all the bakers had gone. Every last one of them.
So as the 20th Century Chinese scholar Lin Yu Tang has pointed out that, “We are, in the end, loyal to the food of our youth…” I celebrate now the skills of those who got up in the middle of the night to feed us, treat us, entice us, talk to us, wait upon us, serve us, remember us and our quirks, put things aside for us, change things if they weren’t quite right; while we were happy in the belief that they baked only for us and that they cared for our custom. For truly they sold us our daily bread…and muffins and teacakes and white loaves and penny hovis and bunnys and cobs and rolls and oven bottoms and pies and charlottes and pastries and cream cakes and trifles and fancies and treats. I miss them and would like to hope that they all had a happy retirement.