The time had finally come. I was to follow a baker during his shift in an effort to gain a better understanding of what the bakery is all about. (There is really only so much you can learn from eating every baked good in sight.)This particular baker’s shift started at about 2:45 a.m.
Waking up at 1:30 in the morning when your body knows it should be sleeping is an incredibly surreal experience. While I was very much looking forward to spending time in the place that makes so much of my favorite Co-op food, I was also feeling a bit shaky from lack of sleep. Fortunately it was a gusty morning, the kind which only Bellingham knows how to deliver, and the ride on my bike against the Cold North Wind brought me into the present moment quite quickly.
When I arrived at the Cordata Co-op, Cameron the Baker (not his last name) was already there getting ready for his day; pulling recipes, updating inventory sheets and taking a look at what had been done the day before. He also seemed a bit sleepy. Probably the regular level of sleepy, not the hallucination-inducing level of exhaustion that I had been feeling earlier.
After some time setting things up, Cameron started to make cakes, pies, cookies and all other manner of baked goods. He moved with the ease of someone who has become what he does. Watching this is like watching poetry; it is beauty set to music.
As he worked, he explained to me what he was doing and why he was doing it. He frosted cakes, mixed batter, and baked pie crusts. He only touched things that he had to touch; and only long enough to perfect them. He told me about the life span of different types of dough, the techniques he used to make it easier for his wrists, and where he learned how to bake. It was clear he was confident in his craft, and he went about his work with the ease of a professional.
Throughout the day I learned a great many things. I learned how they make peanut butter caramel cups, how to mix the batter for their famous lemon cloud cake, and best of all, how to make the custard for their banana cream pie. It was all very wonderful, working amongst the sights and smells of The Little Bakery That Could. It didn’t seem to affect Cameron at all. In fact, Cameron told me that he rarely eats the stuff he makes, which shocked me. Well, until I realized that just meant more for me. Then it pleased me to no end.
The day passed incredibly swiftly. At about 9:30 a.m, on the precipice of being able to depart and find my warm and welcoming bed, I felt as though I had just arrived. Though I knew hours had passed, it seemed like moments. I asked Cameron if he felt the same way, and he replied that he did indeed feel like he had been there for seven hours.
I guess that is the difference between a professional and an amateur; the amateur is delighted by everything she does, indulging her senses in all that surrounds her. The professional sets his mind to the work and does it, always keeping an eye to the horizon and an ear to the oven timer.