Monday, 10 November 2008

Precious Baines

I love my local baker's shop. In fact I'm glad when there's a queue, (except when it's out on the pavement in the rain), just so that I can take in the Unmitigated England atmosphere. I always think the floor slopes down to the counter, but that might say more about me than the shop. On the right as you go in there's a glass cabinet with sliding doors, filled with the jars of the Unmitigated Preserve of Choice- Wilkins of Tiptree in Essex. The classic white labels line-up on everything from Medlar Jelly to Orange & Tangerine Marmalade, the jar I inevitably carefully extract. The glass-topped counter doubles up as a display cabinet for fancy cakes and cake decorations, and the wall behind is a mural of Twinings Tea packets. The staff are all, without exception, very pretty girls, but of course you will understand this has nothing whatever to do with my twice-weekly patronage. Oh yes, the bread I go in for. Some of the freshly-baked loaves stacked on the angled wooden shelves are a very tight fit in the cream paper bags, so there's always a brief interlude whilst the girl carefully slides the paper over the crust. My usual purchase is for a Scotch Tin, so of course I never tire of marching in and demanding "A large Scotch please".

17 comments:

williamandemma said...

Way back when I was a teenager, I had a summer job in the bakehouse out the back and whilst the hours were early it is I think one of the most satisfying paid jobs I have had in my life so far.... which doesn't necessarily say much for my later career choices. If you think the shop is Unmitigated England, you should see the facilities out the back.....

Ten Inch Wheeler said...

It says a great deal about the British relationship with food that most bread is sold in sealed plastic bags in this country, and can be made to last about a week.

When I lived in Munich, our street had 7 bakeries, each with numberless styles of utterly delicious bread. There was always a long queue at the best baker, opposite my flat. Ordering kurbiskernbrot from the terrifying brotfrau was how I learned to speak my Tarzan-esque German.

I've always wanted to visit Jacka's bakery in Plymouth which has been there since 1597 and baked the bread for the Mayflower.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Ah, well I remember my days in Oxford, living just up the road from a bakery. Many was the large farmhouse I bought fresh from the oven, when ambling home after some nocturnal adventure. The taste of melted butter on fresh warm bread is still a favourite.

By the way. 'Scotch tin'. Interesting. Why are whisky, tins, mist, and (formerly) Mendelssohn's 3rd symphony all 'Scotch' rather than 'Scottish'.

Sue said...

Mmmm...although as Ten Inch Wheeler says, the bread isn't bad over here in Germany, it was the promise of Battenburg, Florentines, Mince Pies and the like on the sides of the bag that got me going. I expect they also bake Eccles Cake, Lardy Cake, Chelsea Buns, Bakewell Tarts, Maids of Honour and a thousand other wonderfully calorific delicacies!

Toby Savage said...

Yes, but Peter, where's the picture of the 'pretty girls'. Come on...I did my hairdresser. She was flattered. With your lounge lizzard charm you can do it. The World waits. Our Grandad was a baker in Leamington Spa. Dad took the helm when the old man (he can't have been more than about 50) fell ill. Dad forgot to add the salt and has never been allowed to forget it.

Ron Combo said...

In my bread slicing days at Mother's Pride (great branding for an industrial product) in Newton Abbot it was nothing like this, I can assure you. I can still remember the smell of molten plastic from the bag-sealing machine where I often stood guard, a No. 6 cupped surreptitiously in my palm.

Ron Combo said...

By the way, the heat-sealing line was only for Slimcea. The standard Mother's Pride bagging line ran a plastic bag with a re-usable clip. Just to set the record straight. I know what you lot are like.

Peter Ashley said...

Ron thankyou. I love the inside 'gen' on other people's jobs. I once had a Saturday job working the passenger lift at Boots and poked a woman's eye instead of the second floor button. But yes, we'd have picked up on that Slimcea process very quickly.

Jon Dudley said...

The smell isssuing forth from bread shops and bakeries should be subject to aroma listing status.The old maltings at Bishop's Stortford - sadly too late, the same for the Sarson's vinegar factory off Tower Bridge Road. A national 'save our smells' campaign must be launched immediately...'aroma rehabilitation and stench endorsement' or ARSE for short.

Peter Ashley said...

Thankyou for that Jon, I shall get ARSEing about immediately.

Jon Dudley said...

Good man! Knew I could rely on you. Awaiting the new range of Ashley's Unmitigated England scratch and sniff editions.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Jon - The Sarson's factory is an old favourite of mine, too.

I think we should send Lord Ashley on a nationwide cake crawl, photographing, and, of course, bringing back for consumption, the cakes and tarts (?) of England, from Bakewell and Banbury to Bath and beyond.

Jon Dudley said...

Tarts, described by County. What an excellent idea Mr.W. Local 'field experts' could be enlisted to provide intelligence and guidance to the most likely sources. No shortage of volunteers for this assignment...when do we start?

Peter Ashley said...

Ooh boys, I like the sound of this one. It would also make a lovely series of five minute films, with you Jon behind an Arriflex, me going and buying the tarts and then seen stuffing them into my mouth on a park bench or similar. Wilko can be continuity and keep a score that can be put on the screen at the end. And keep us out of pubs until the final wrap.

Jon Dudley said...

There is of course a less fattening alternative to all this. But I'm not sure I want to be behind the camera. No, upon mature reflection your original plan is by far the safest and most charming.

Peter Ashley said...

Working Title: "Cake Walk".

Vinogirl said...

I'm jealous...bread in America is, well, crap!