Tuesday, October 13, 2009

home sweet home

Started sorting thru eight days of mail yesterday. It's tough coming back after a week away. The show in Germany was a terrific expereience. Went with my son, we saw lots of new things. I think most importantly, my son Guy got an invite to go work in
France for three months. A type of exchange program has been offered. I would send my son there and they would send a young Frenchman here. We also found a six week program in Germany, that is taught in English. There is a chain of baking schools in Germany, similar to the Cordon Bleu schools here in the states. Same school, campuses in all the big cities. Terrific opportunities for him.

Very discouraged by the bakery situation in Germany and Belgium. I was there for eight days. I saw maximum of ten bakeries. Don't think I wasn't lookin'. Hell, I'm always on the lookout for a bakery. In Dusseldorf, we stayed outside the city. Rode the train back and forth to the city twice a day. In the morning to attend the trade fair, and back in at night for dinner. Between Nuess and Dusseldorf, on the S7 line there are two bakeries. TWO BAKERIES! I was there in 1980, there were two bakeries at every intersection. In the altstadt(old city), in Dusseldorf, they are gone. Used to be one every one hundred yards.

Went to Belgium, spent two nights in Brussels. One day we took a train over to Brugge. I think Brugge is the second largest city in Belgium. Big tourist place. A little like Venice. Canals thru the streets. Not sure how many square blocks, the city market is, but it's at least double Evanston's downtown district. Two bakeries, two macaroon shops, one pastry shop and several "Tea rooms". Sign says "Tea Room & Patisserie". Sign should say "Beer and Eclairs here". They are more focused on the beer. Great, great beer in Belgium. Lots of chocolate shops in Belgium. It appears that some are better than others, but I was very surprised at the quality of the workmanship. Lots of molded chocolates that were not handled well. The chocolates all tasted great, but the majority of the few bakery goods, I saw, were crooked. Bread was bland. Stuff had no character.

We were back in Chicago, Sunday afternoon. I came to the bakery right away, just to look things over. I returned Monday morning around 4am. I was walking up the street, approaching the bakery, half a block away, and it hit me. The aroma that is released when the oven is full of baguettes. Unmistakable, under appreciated, unforgettable, unmatchable. Fermentation, is king. We have our shortcomings here at Bennison's. We are far to busy for our square footage. We are baking round the clock, 24/7. The place never gets shutdown. We're over crowded, and there is flour everywhere. As soon as a spot gets cleaned up, there is someone standing there waiting, because he or she needs to work there. But the aromas here, oh, the aromas. I walked into that international convention. Thousands, and thousands of bakers, from every corner of the world. Places that I never heard of. Nine buildings, machines that would stick out each end of our bakery. Demos of these stainless steel giants, running non stop. Racks of rolls, pretzels, baguettes being baked all day long. Everything designed to produce it faster and cheaper. The place had no aroma. The bread had no soul. It was all pretty, nice uniform stuff. All no time doughs, no fermentation. Chemicals designed to speed up the process. It bothered me until 4am Monday morning.

More tomorrow. I'm not done ranting.


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