Recently I was reminded of the song; Eminence Front by Pete Townshend (The Who).
After my run early in the morning I walk by quite regularly a French bake shoppe. Even during COVID-19 this bake shoppe has a line up to get in the door. People patiently wearing masks, line up 6 feet apart from one another to step into the shoppe one person at a time (it’s a small shoppe).
I’ve walked by this place for years and yet had never stepped in. Although I had always heard; “Oh, the pastries are delicious and fresh.” “The best in the neighbourhood.” The location of this shoppe happens to be in a wealthy area of town. Rave reviews by many.
On one particular day as I was walking by, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. So, I walked in. The breads looked lovely in their bins and wicker baskets; the pastries nicely displayed under glass. A tray of chocolate chip cookies glaring at me as they gave off that fresh baked cookie smell, making it impossible for me to avoid. So, I bought one.
I preface this by saying that I am, admittedly a chocolate chip cookie snob. Although, I’m not generally a cookie eater, it’s probably because I rarely find that certain old fashioned, crunchy, pure chocolate chip, just out of the oven freshness. You know, where the recipe calls for just 3 maybe 4 wholesome ingredients.
Excited, I thought; “Could this be the day where I stumbled across the perfect chocolate chip cookie?” And then I took my first bite. I truly did try and savour the moment. Not to be too hasty in my review. All the while thinking; “What happens if I DO love this cookie? Will I become addicted?” Yep, that’s what was running through my mind.
But, alas, it was a chocolate chip cookie let down. The crunch was there, but the chocolate chips tasted fake. Kinda waxy. I was so disappointed. Bummer.
I hadn’t thought about that cookie until recently when I walked by the shoppe today. Now I must say that I had seen a van pull up the mornings I did walk by, and yet my mind was elsewhere and didn’t really put 2 + 2 together. Until, of course today.
I probably became more aware as we’re in the midst of this pandemic and the heightened awareness for cleanliness and safety is prevalent.
So, this particular morning, I noticed the old van with its doors and back hatch wide open with the driver unpacking. It was a messy van with baked goods and bread uncovered. All I could think about was the guy driving the van, no mask, no gloves with fumes from the exhaust and him breathing all over the food.
The kicker, the baked goods being brought into this French bakery shoppe were from a large grocery store bakery chain. The name on the trays exposed for all to see if people walked by that early in the morning.
I kid you not the bakery brags that it’s “reminiscent of the bustling boulangeries/patisseries of Paris. A showcase of old school ambiance and artisanal values.” Although here it speaks more about the ambiance than the baked goods, although the impression from the website is that it’s made from homemade products, and by a chef. I’m going to assume that some things are made in-house. Hopefully.
And then it dawned on me; “That’s why my chocolate chip cookie didn’t taste real or fresh.” Yeah, real chemicals. Ugh, I had been duped. And I thought, so have all the patrons of this shoppe that line up day after day to buy, what they think, are French artisan baked goods. I thought; “Can we really trick our brains to fool our taste buds?” Yep. It turns out we can.
By now you may be asking; “What’s the name of the place?” And yes, I could share that information. But I have another thought. As well, we’re all going through some really tough times during COVID, some tougher than others. Stores are closing and people are losing their livelihoods, I’m not going to be the one to shout; “The jigs up.”
As well, I’m not an investigative reporter, I don’t have all the facts. Perhaps only a few baked goods are from the grocery chain? Ok, a van-size load of baked goods that can also be bought at a grocery store for a fraction of the cost. Although, ethically, one would hope that the shoppe would share this information to its patrons.
I also thought, my work is to help people and their businesses thrive. Particularly during stressful times. This shoppe actually needs me to suggest that they stop with the eminence front and get back to baking or start to bake everything fresh. This way in all good conscious they could truthfully brag about their goods.
Afterall, they’re already charging artisan prices. Wow though, their margins must be great, but …. one day a patron of the shoppe will walk by, see the van and not hold their tongue; then the jig will be up. Especially in this particular community where information runs like wildfire.
Truly, the kicker for me, apart that the baked goods being from a grocery bakery chain, is the fact that they are sitting in a van, open-air, during COVID, with a guy not wearing a mask or gloves while handling the baked goods. That’s just wrong.
On a side note – think about it, even if they did bake all the goods themselves, like they noted on their website, they are STILL transporting food in a van, uncovered, with a guy, no mask or gloves. I’m thinking; breathing and car fumes.
Which brings me to my thought. Thinking about this as I’m typing, I felt I was in a bit of a conundrum; however, I’m now going to go by the shoppe and speak with the owner. It’s the right thing to do.
Thank you. If it weren’t for you, the reader, and my need to write and express what I see, then I don’t know if I would have come to the same conclusion so quickly. I may have pondered it longer or perhaps walked by that van a few more (too many) times before saying anything.
Here’s to you. I’m grateful for your readership.