How did you get started doing the Bakery?
We moved to the Eastern Shore from San Francisco just over 12 years ago. Although we were ready to live in a rural place, the lack of quality food was a little startling. We started growing our own vegetables, raised chickens for eggs, sheep for meat, and bees for honey, but we really missed the bread from San Francisco. So I started to bake my own.
I've always been passionate about baking. I come from a long line of relatives who bake their own pies, cakes, and cookies, and my grandfather was the baker at the Hotel Bossert in Brooklyn… But moving to the Eastern Shore made me get serious about bread. I started reading bread books, bread blogs, anything I could get my hands on. I baked. And I baked. I learned how to capture wild yeast and turn it into a starter (affectionately known as “mother”). Looking back 10 years, those first loaves of which I was so proud were really quite scary, but they still tasted better than the sugar and air-filled loaves we could buy at the store.
How did you come to feel that supporting local food was important? Why do you think buying local is important?
When we lived in San Francisco we shopped at the biggest and best farmers' market I've seen in the States. Located just south of the city, it took up an entire parking lot. The produce was amazing and very affordable, and everything was incredibly fresh. Strawberries, tomatoes—you name it—all tasted as they should. My husband and I love traveling and we always make a point of visiting local markets. Supporting the local food producers just seems like the natural, right thing to do. You get products at their peak. Plus, when you buy directly from the producer, each item comes with a story. I think that's cool.
There are commercially operated farms all over the Eastern Shore. Year after year the same crops are planted. We watch tomatoes that are as green and hard as Granny Smith apples get picked and piled into huge bins; they are then shipped off to some warehouse where they are gassed to turn them red. That's just not right. Most of this country doesn't know what a tomato tastes like because they only ever buy them at the grocery store. Whether it's a tomato, specialty cheese, or bread, a locally produced equivalent tastes the way it should.
Buying locally is important not only because you get food that tastes like something, but also because you support the local economy and small businesses. I sometimes feel our country is losing sight of the bigger picture. By supporting the local producers, we're sending a message: I like knowing where my food came from.
One of the reasons we moved to the Eastern Shore was to teach our children about food. We wanted them to understand where their food comes from and how the choices we make about what we eat affect all of us. Being part of a local food movement reinforces this.
What is the best thing about what you do? What are some of the challenges?
I really enjoy what I do. I was giddy when I successfully grew my own starter. When a loaf comes out of the oven, I always marvel that I made it with my own hands. At first, I wished I could make every loaf look the same, but then a friend said to me, "You're not a machine! Each loaf is unique. That's a good thing." And you know what, she was right.
I began my work life as an educational writer and editor—I still work as one. But I find that baking is more satisfying. It's very physical. The first year I had a lot of aches and pains and was exhausted all the time. I've become a lot stronger but, most importantly, my husband (and the kids during the summer) is helping. We've worked elbow-to-elbow for nearly a year and we're still speaking! It has been hard work, but great fun and very rewarding. It's wonderful being in control, making decisions, and knowing that if we mess up, we only have ourselves to blame. And we do mess up.
Every baking day I learn something new.
Why are you involved in BFBLHR?
I wanted to be part of the local food scene. I wanted to join a community that shared the same values I have about food.
What is something you'd like everyone to know about your business?
We are family owned. Most of our breads are based on a rustic sourdough that relies solely on wild Eastern Shore yeast for its rise. No preservatives, sugar, or artificial ingredients are used in the rustic breads (they're also vegan). The cinnamon swirl breads do contain sugar, commercial yeast, and milk.
We really do try to keep it simple. With the muffins and quick breads we use locally grown fruits and vegetables. We had a terrific run with blackberry muffins. Picketts Harbor farm on the Eastern Shore had the best berries—and they kept coming. Shockley Farm (also on the Eastern Shore) supplied us with fresh corn and zucchini for our muffins. And now we're into pumpkin muffins topped with Shady Goat Farmcheese.
We are often asked about gluten-free products. I looked into it and just don't see it happening. We are really all about basic ingredients and keeping things simple. I haven't found a gluten free bread recipe that is basic or simple.
Where can people find your products?
Old Beach Farmers Market. We are located next to Shady Goat Farm. Preordering is a must of the fall and winter markets since we tend to bring less bread then.
Gull Hummock in Cape Charles. We deliver there every Friday (sometimes on Thursday depending on the time of year).
We also send out a weekly email on Sunday about what we're baking. People email us back and we deliver their orders to various spots on the Eastern Shore. Our kids also act as couriers and will deliver orders at their school.