What’s Happened to Our Bakeries?

I am an almost empty-nester (-2 two and 1 to go) and that comes with its own waterfall of feelings.   I discovered this weekend that it also comes with a certain freedom and an emerging rediscovery of self.     While working on a project, I was interrupted by a vision of  myself sitting in a cafe slurping java, nibbling on a whole-grain muffin and people-watching from behind a Sunday paper.  I felt the urge to have some fresh-baked goods and after doing a little research,  I closed my laptop and headed to Gotham.   My husband accompanied me assuming the role of  my muse and confidant.  My fourteen year old was willing to come along as she understood that these spur-of-the-moment trips would soon be the norm and not the exception.  I was driven by the mission to become the image of myself in my head…beatnik mom…almost empty-nester…fighting against the invevitable…reinventing herself again.  Perhaps I could even write a poem or two with at least one being about my muffin with its whole-grain goodness oozing with a schmear of butter.   (I was told by my local bagel shop owner that you can’t really use this word for butter, only for cream cheese). Of course, I would have to snap a picture while sitting in this cafe and MMS (message)  it to my children to show that I was really fine and could enjoy a cup of java, a muffin and a life that did not involve them every moment.

My desires were maligned by the bakery-cafe with its sparse and underwhelming display, sterile smell and absence of whole grain muffins. I think it would be fair to demand that  the bakery-cafes actually stock some of the items they taunt you with on their websites.   The java was so bitter that I had to put nine sugar packets in it.   I convinced myself that all empty-nesters must be able to handle this bitterness so I drank on.   I ordered a muffin that was made with raisin bread dough, cinnamon, raisins and walnuts.  It was good but lacked depth of flavor and of course, decadence.  The chocolate chunk cookies were fresh out of the oven and screaming for a glass of milk so we all agreed to try one.    In this case, happiness was not a warm cookie because there was too much chocolate (sorry ladies) that sank to the bottom and burned.  I would have preferred to have the bar of chocolate, a plain cookie and a glass of milk, a deconstruction of sorts.    Eventually, the cool music subdued my mood as I watched people tapping on the keys of their laptops.   Most likely people come here so that they can tell their friends: “Oh I’m at the such-and-such right now doin’ some work and drinking java…tweet…tweet.”  Hooray for branding!

I was just here for the butter–pure and simple, undefiled by margarine or shortening.   My taste buds were waiting to experience this  measure of heaven no matter how small. Where was the smell of  butter so reminiscent of my childhood?   While the food pyramid has pushed us toward healthier lifestyles, I can’t help but think that it has conspired to kill our sweet tooth.    Is that why butter has disappeared out of most bakery items?    Why do we demonize butter and continue to use pesticides?

What has happened to our bakeries?   We are cheating this generation out of  having an authentic bakery experience.  As the old-world bakers retired, we accepted the nouveau-bakery as the standard.   Admittedly,  I do enjoy cool music and free wireless.  But who will extol the benefits of the cream puff, the cinnamon roll and, the crumb cake?     At the end of the day,  this almost empty nester, needs to have a healthy schmear of real butter cream icing on her cupcake.  If this is a revolutionary thought to anyone, please respond, “Yes We Can!”

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