My bakery is called “Sticky.”
You’ll find this establishment in a transitional neighborhood of a large American City. The location takes advantage of ample foot traffic and a dense, modestly diverse cluster of nearby housing. A well-regarded university is no more than four (but no fewer than two– F*$#ing Hipsters) miles away. Inside, framed photographs of distressed Italianate architecture dot the exposed-brick walls, and an area behind the display counter painted a bright, earthy blue.
There is plenty of seating- members of the creative class take advantage of the free wi-fi to do Very Important Things on their laptop computers. Grumpy old men from the neighborhood hunch over the large table in the corner and play chess all afternoon, bathed in the lazy sunlight streaming through the ancient bay windows. The dining area smells vaguely of coffee, wheat, and lemon.
And, inside the display cases, the baked goods will stop you cold. Brownies the size of wallets, pitch-black from the too-expensive French cocoa I stubbornly insist upon, much to the chagrin of my accountant. Cupcake frosting colored by a madman and applied by a bomb-diffuser-brain-surgeon-architect who freebases Adderall. Ciabatta that’s still slightly sandy from the floured towel used it to hoist it into the steamy oven. Muffins that look like muffins, replete with tops and perfect blueberry distribution. Chocolate chip cookies that are ever-slightly pale. Cinnamon sticky buns that singe your nose hairs before coating your soul in gently frosted goo.
And exactly one cake.
There is a trick to walking through a crowded grocery store wearing a sombrero.
You have to be it. Own it. Every movement, every gesture, every facial expression must ooze comfort. I am not talking about cocky bravado – that would reek of overcompensation and defeat the entire purpose. You must, rather, be simply confident. Walking around in a sombrero must seem like second nature. The vapid stares from the other shoppers must fall off you like raindrops upon stone. The giggles are ignored. Questions like “dude… why are you wearing a sombrero?” meet with a low-key, clever retort.
The only problematic moment of my trip (Kenard Avenue Kroger, for those of you keeping score at home) occurred at the very end of my visit, when I had to ask an 18 year old store clerk where in the freezer case I might find puff pastry. He looked up at me from behind his fortress of boxes, and his face slowly started peeling back into a surprised smile.
Of course, it’s possible that Kroger corporation has developed a world-class sensitivity training program, whereby front-line staff are drilled in respecting customers for sartorial diversity…
I wasn’t going to chance it. I just eyeballed him. You’re gonna laugh at me, punk? No. You’re not. You’re going to tell me where the puff pastry is because I wear this goddamn sombrero every time i visit the grocery. Arright?
I suppose I should back up and mention that I hosted a tequila party this past Saturday Night.
I didn’t see the constellation Orion. But I felt a sense of profound relief that I came of age just after the Friday Night/Heavy Metal/Laser/Astronomy at the Observatory thing.
Seriously, There was a point on the return leg of the road trip that found me absolutely mesmerized. I had to ease the Hoopty off the the side of Highway 46, sit out on the front fender, and look up at the stars. I’m willing to risk that sounding a little bit trite, but seriously, it had been a long time. It was a clear night, with great visibility and no glare save from a dimly lit A-frame farmhouse about a half a mile downhill.
And I try not be cavalier about the word “awe,” but there are times when it just fits. I sat there dumbstruck for what had to be a half an hour, staring blankly into a sky that just teemed with life. I didn’t see the space station, but I found the Big Dipper, the North Star, and this faint streak of powdery white that I knew wasn’t a cloud, but I think was the outer arm of the galaxy. I think this image was seared into my mind as the most compelling visual of 2009.
Yeah, I need to get out of the city more often.
I’m not just full. I’m sated. Satisfied. Pushed to the limits in both the kitchen and dining room computer table before being returned safely to a now-expanded comfort zone.
When we last left our hero he had decided to take a week and prepare a series of dishes from his favorite food blogs. He would choose dishes from blogs he enjoyed reading for their own sake, while savoring the opportunity to experiment a little.
He also resolved not to add bacon to everything. But more on this later.
And, candidly, I couldn’t be happier with how well things turned out. I have some comments and pictures to share, as well as a fridge full of leftovers that you are all welcome to stop over and sample.