Tuesday, August 15, 2006

An introduction to the hunt...

While The Great American Bakery Hunt glorifies pastry consumption and bakery visits, The Hunt is about much more than this. This blog is a way to show reverence for the practice of living of life at a slower pace. A visit to the bakery is surrounded by a thousand small and beautiful interactions and details: a bakery is a place to slow down and appreciate these details, an opportunity to savor life.

Whether I am writing about breaking bread or hunting it, The Great American Bakery Hunt is about the simple things that feed us in life- physically, culturally, or otherwise. I long for the bakery culture that I once experienced as a temporary resident of Roskilde, Denmark and as a pastry-obsessed traveler to Paris, France. In both countries, life at a slower pace allowed me to wander freely through an endless maze of bakeries, and to explore my historic surroundings with a warm belly full of hand-crafted, mouth-watering baked good creations. Some of these creations came from the very kitchen of my Danish host mother, a professional baker whose tasty recipes were brought into my life by a lucky twist of fate.

By traveling through these faraway lands, I realized that while we have some wonderful bakeries here in the States, we lack the same appreciation for bakery culture that other societies have. Throughout the world, others know the importance of a strong bakery culture-- the beauty of a well-executed baguette, or a carefully crafted pastry are widely appreciated art forms. The EU, for example, even developed a special campaign glorifying baked goods and their recipes from various EU countries. "Sweet Europe: Be Seduced," reads their transnational bakery mantra. Meanwhile, American bakery culture continues to be under appreciated and underdeveloped. I know there are some amazing pastry chefs and bakers in America, and I look forward to discovering more of them as I continue The Great American Bakery Hunt. However, when it comes to bringing their creations to the people, there is a disconnect between culinary creation and consumption. Through The Hunt, I hope to bring new discoveries to those who crave bakery culture. I demand more American bakery culture now.

Here in Southern California, we have some great bakeries, but little bakery culture to speak of. Instead of stopping by their neighborhood bakery, most folks frantically stop at Starbucks, ready to juice up our system in preparation for intense freeway commuting. We have no time for eye contact or pleasantries with the barista, we only stop momentarily to check the time on our cell phones before we race out the door and pound down an uber-caffeinated hold- the- whip beverage, cursing our burning hands because we forgot to get our cardboard sleeve. Americans are all about convenience, but in this fast-paced convenience, we lose something. Unlike the countless layers of buttery Danish pastries, there is no soul, no depth to our triple cappuccinos. (Certainly those coffee beans came from somewhere, but human connection is a faraway one indeed.)

But in this loss, we have gained a worthwhile challenge, and this is where The Great American Bakery Hunt comes in. Great bakeries do not just come to you-- you must search far and wide, tirelessly and devotedly, to find the best in bakery culture. You may even need to use the fearless, aggressive, and unstoppable tactics of a hunter to gain what you need. Not just any bakery will do-- you must search high and low for bakeries that fortify the bakery culture with pride, expertise, and vision.

Before all witnesses of this blog, I vow that I will tirelessly explore bakery culture, reporting items of baked relevance to readers to the best of my ability.

The Great American Bakery Hunt is a place where European and American bakery cultures meet. It is clear that America is settling, but I will hold continue to hold dear the idea of a nation where individuals enjoy quality baked goods as an everyday right.

I welcome any American baker to send me samples, locations of great American bakeries, challenges, rebuttals, comments, questions, concerns, rants, or even recipes if they feel compelled to do so after reading my comments. I want to believe in great American bakeries, much like I always wanted to believe in the tooth fairy, but I have not seen much of either of you yet. I hope you prove my suspicions wrong. There must be others of you who long for truly amazing bakeries around every American corner, I know there are. I would love it if you shared your insights with me, as fellow bakery hunting enthusiasts. Until then, the hunt continues...
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