I'm a dreamer. Those who know me will attest to this fact. Give me a dull or unadventurous life and I will hatch some plan to inspire that life back into full color, perfectly tailored to that person's wants and needs. One dream is to walk around the world starting with Mexico. Rather than experience a country for a short week or two, the plan is to live and volunteer in a country until I learn the language and culture well enough to compose an anthology of local and personal works. Another is to work six months through the Antarctica summer and live the remaining six months on a sailboat, exploring the high seas and inner ports of countless continents. Still another is to minimize my daily expenses to a small enough amount so I can then hop on a bicycle to hike and ride around the United States for several years, riding north in the summer and south in the winter with all my possessions summarized into a small bike trailer. The list is inexhaustible or, if it does in fact dwindle, I begin researching new opportunities or hashing out the details to some of my classics.
Last week, I had an experience that brought my most classic of dreams a little close to fruition. The classic is my bakery in Hallstatt, Austria. When I was in seventh grade, I quite randomly stumbled upon a picture of Hallstatt and instantly fell in love. I was going to live there someday, somehow. The colors were so vivid, the town so quaint and the scenery such a gorgeous contrast to my current conditions of cloudy grey skies and suburban sprawl. My first plan was to visit as an exchange student, find a handsome local to marry and live the rest of my life in complete bliss lost in the Alps, running circles in large alpine meadows. This plan was later replaced as,
1. I graduated from high school and lost my opportunity as an exchange student (I wouldn't have been guaranteed placement in Hallstatt, anyway) and,
2. I lost confidence in my ability to attract a young Austrian chap by the name of Hans who would fall madly in love with me and beg me to stay with him in his mountainous paradise (what would I have to offer Hans over all the other young American girls clamoring for his affections?)
The dream, in its original state, was too fragile and dependent on external factors to ever be obtainable. Instead, I decided I would go to Austria as a business woman and baker. The bakery is going to be either lakeside or one street up. It will have a patio and hanging basket gardens where one can sit and read while sunning and enjoying a chocolate croissant and cafe. Travelers are very welcome, however most the tables will be occupied with retired Austrian locals. In between baking, I'll collect stories and write them into novels which will never be published. There will be book shelves and they will be selling my favorite works of literature, available only in the language of the author. I'll keep costs low enough to break even and sustain me. (Please read: if you want to visit me in my old age, plan a trip to Austria and I will stuff you with pastries). I will live in the studio/one/two bedroom apartment above the bakery. Again, the apartment size fluctuates as I find a person I think understands this dream only to return to my old age insane and unmarried, living with a cat in a studio apartment above my bakery.
My Hallstatt Classic has been a little further realized by a recent experience at a local bakery in Bremerton, WA. I woke up to a strange, gold filtered sunlight and knew that autumn would come knocking in the next day or so. To celebrate the last day of summer, Bryan and I decided breakfast was a must and headed down to my favorite breakfast restaurant, the Hi-Lo Cafe. However, our arrival was met with a closed Hi-Lo and a sign informing us the owners were on vacation and that we should have a "smiley and sunny day" regardless. No worries, we decided we would walk two store fronts down and purchase some pastries from Luigi's Bakery and have them with tea and sun.
We enter Luigi's Bakery and instantly wish we are no longer in Luigi's Bakery. The entrance is crowded with metal bread racks channeling customers to one pastry display window. Behind the metal racks, the room looks more like an office than a bakery. Stacks of papers line the walls, ovens and counters are somehow absent from the bakery decor, and one man sits surfing the Internet in a far corner cubby. A flustered looking woman greets us and traps us into making a purchase as neither Bryan or I are confrontational enough to turn around and leave. Following the metals racks, we allow ourselves to be channeled toward the pastry display window and gaze beyond the glare of the glass. Inside, our eyes are met with rows and rows of black pastries. My first thought is "wow, these things are terribly burnt" but then I back track and think perhaps this flustered couple knows something about rustic Italian baking that I do not. They do, after all, own a bakery. My gaze passes over crispy black croissants, toasted and brown cream cheese and blueberry pastries, brown scones with blackened fruit, and cinnamon brioches.
I can tell Bryan wants to leave but refuses to make the first move. Flustered woman asks us what we would like. I scan the window one last time to find the least burnt of the ensemble, deciding on an oat and walnut scone and the cinnamon brioche. The pastries are plopped in a bag and the woman rings us up, $4.00. Expensive for burnt pastries, yes, but I have experienced more expensive lessons. Besides, maybe once the burnt is scraped off, the pastries are quite wonderful underneath. After all, this couple does own a bakery.
False. We get the pastries home, make up some tea and sit down to explore the food before us. We start with the scone. First, I break off a crispy currant hanging on to its brown scone home. Rather than plucking, like a current on a scone should, the black circle shatters in my fingers and disintegrates into a pile of carbon. That's alright, I didn't want the current anyway. Bryan breaks off a corner to find beneath the brown and toasted surface, not the sconey goodness we were hoping for, but a doughy and undercooked inside. I'm puzzled. How can you own a bakery, charge $2.00 a pastry, still have your establishment running, and not know how to bake?
We move on to pastry number two, Cinnamon Brioche. Originally, I picked the brioche because it was the only unburnt pastry in the window. As it turns out, Cinnamon Brioche is fancy for World's Smallest Cinnamon Roll. We pull the truffle paper cup off of the pastry and look at the Brioche in all its glory. It's a little smaller than a golf ball. I wonder how the flustered woman and her husband, both rather large individuals, mastered the rolling of this delicate pastry with their clumsy fingers. Who knows, it's-a-Luigi and he owns a bakery. Magic rolls the cinnamon pastry. Bryan and I share a chewy golf ball and drink our tea, firmly decided to never visit Luigi's Bakery again.
So, how did this disappointing experience bring me one step closer to my bakery in Austria? As it turns out, you do not need to know how to bake to own a bakery! My smattering of successful cookies and scones recipes will be enough to secure a large base of patrons. And if my pastries do not pull in the customers, I'll awkwardly loom over the pastry window when customers come in until they purchase something. Then I'll over charge them for something I know they will not be able to eat. If this business strategy does not work in Austria, I know I can at least own a successful bakery in Bremerton, WA. Perhaps I'll name it Mario's Bakery and open it across the street from Luigi's. That way, on slow business days we can stand behind our screened doors and yell "i'm-a-mario" and "it's-a-luigi" across 15th Street until our voices give out and customers vow to never visit our neighborhood again.