Starting a new routine is intoxicating. Visions of future success, whole novels written, bodies in tip top shape, waiters knowing your “usual” and sharing an inside joke – the possibilities for self-improvement and social achievement seem endless.
So here I am, beginning a new routine. I sat at Black Rook Bakehouse this morning, devouring a blueberry banana muffin and composing the foreward of my wildly successful someday to be published novel: “To the bakers of Black Rook: thanks for the atmosphere and the sustenance…blah…blah…blah…”
First things first. I’ve made a plan to swim at the local pool, and then settle into a comfy refinished pew at the Rook, and write. Every week. It’s all very romantic and ambitious, and I have a shameful pile of similar resolutions taking up space in the overstuffed closet of the should-have-beens. But this time, I am sure it’s going to work. Wooden chairs and tables, antique plates, pen and paper, natural sunlight. It’s almost perfect, this little plan of mine. Sweet treats, a midway point between the pool and my apartment, lots of space to think and ponder.
As much as I adore the artistic models where inspiration drops fully formed from heaven’s muses, into the humble lap of the waiting writer, I know that I’m not one of those writers. Except, maybe, when it comes to sacred prayers and liturgy, one area of my work that has been flourishing of late, thanks to divine inspiration and frequent opportunity.
I need deadlines, the expectations of others, planned space to write into. I need to get out of the apartment, as it seduces me into exercising my other pursuits: cooking, nesting, creating order out of chaos, flitting about on the vast, shallow and endlessly entertaining virtual ocean that is the internet.
So when I saw Black Rook a month ago as I was speeding along home on my bicycle (another routine I am happy to reclaim), I knew it deserved a second look.
My father is a baker, and his legacy has given me a curiosity and affinity for bakeries, especially small, brave, personal ventures. I will never brook any criticism of the wondrous bread and cinnamon buns that my father brings into this world, but I do always keep an eye out for the runners-up.
On his recent visit to this fair city, we cruised several local bakeries, and I was sure to put Black Rook on our itinerary.
Painted the pale yellow of a PEI farmhouse, filled with natural light and pleasing aromas, the Bakehouse sits on Hastings and Lakewood, a wildflower in a unremarkable urban field. My father bypassed all the grown-up treats like whiskey stout cake, and cheesecake lollipops, and ordered a simple strawberry banana muffin, split three ways.
He was using, I suspect, the oldest test of bakership around, the simple done delectably. And that muffin wowed us. I was already feeling serendipitous, imagining myself at a table, pen and notebook at the ready, novel in the making, when a coincidence utterly cemented my crush on the place.
His bread, it turns out, is legend. One of the bakers was talking wistfully to us about a baker she knew ten years prior who sold his goods at the local farmer’s market. She remembered his cheddar spud bread with particular fondness.
That baker was my dad – ten years ago, he ran an impressive operation out of the basement of our East Vancouver heritage home. We had a full-size professional mixer and an electricity guzzling convection oven, handling 24 loaves at a time, in the laundry room.
How lovely to discover what I had hoped was true – my dad, the legend, and the Black Rook ladies are birds of the same feather.
The heart and soul of great baking is a strange brew of love, careful craft, and risk-taking, and I’ve always sought that sensibility out whenever I find a new bakery attempting to produce something special.
My dad’s bread is memorable, ten years after its last appearance in Vancouver. I have a happy suspicion that my new favourite writing place is also operating under the same alchemy: desire, flavour, composition, and need to be unforgettable. No wonder I feel at home there – its heritage house decor and memorable flavours remind me of home – a baker’s home.
Here’s to a new routine – maybe even the start of some memorable work.