Speaking of sourdoughs,i would you believe that in this city of 1mn+ there’s but a single baker worth the bother ? Sure, there are mass-produced loaves littering the grocery store shelves, each with their own special snowflake SKUs, not to mention a liberal sprinkling of “high-end” franchise bakeries and the odd national specialistii besides… mais une seule boulangerie francaise.
Yvan Chartrand’s shop – Bonjour Bakery – is it. So it is that he supplies the sandwich bread for finest patisserie and cafe in the areaiii but mostly just sells traditionally prepared sourdoughs out the front door of his nondescript storefront on 99 Street just south of the river to a thoroughly dedicated cast of connoisseurs. Seeing as it’s the only bread for me, connoisseur or not, and given the occasion of the season,iv it seemed appropriate to make a special stop for a loaf this week. I tried yesterday at 11am but they were already completely sold out even though they’d opened their doors just three hours earlier that day.
So, this morning, I set my alarm for 7:30am, figuring that I’d beat the rush this time. Despite last night’s festivitiesv, I disrupted my resobering sleep for a second chance at a yeasty yuletide. Arriving at 8:00am to the freshly blanketed street, there was a line-up. Out the door.
Despite the recently expanded inner foyer, the -10C reading on the mercury, and the sun still being entirely tucked beneath the frosted horizon, there were at least a dozen cars lined up along the narrow street out front, some containing attendant husbands in the idling machines ; not just any machines either, but the latest models from Mercedes, Porsche,vi BMW, Lexus, Mini, and Audi, all tasked with ferrying their priviledged occupants to the ONE HOUR LONG LINE-UP at Bonjour Bakery on Christmas Eve morning. Suddenly, the opportunity cost of all those folks – many comfortably worth $100 an hour spending a not inconsiderable portion of their holiday morning – put to shame the modest $7 charged for the baguette.vii When factoring in driving time to and from the bakery, many tens of thousands of dollars were sunk into leavened luxuries this morning and if that’s not paying tribute to some higher power – be it the Son or the Sun or the Bun – I don’t know what is.
The real kicker, however, was this : we grew up mocking the inefficient line-ups of the overly centralised Soviet Unionviii and yet there we were – the people who actually had a choice of where to eatix – lining up like overdressed cattle for the opportunity to taste real food, anything but the ersatz “eatables” otherwise the rule for two hundred miles in any direction.
It was the delicious height of irony, even if only for one day a year.
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- You’ll recall that traditionally prepared sourdough breads are the only ones I tolerate.↩
- Eg. Dutch, Polish, Austro-Hungarian, etc. It’s a diverse little town if nothing else. ↩
- Duchess Bake Shop on 124th Street. ↩
- It’s not the “holiday” season ya buncha secularists. And it’s only “Channukah” season in that unfortunately place homeland. So until the Musselmen unbork their lunar calendar and take a tip from the enneadecaeteris-cycling Hebrew calendar with its leap months on the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th, and 19th years of a 19-year cycle*, this is the Christmas season pretty much everywhere else.
*The Hebrew lunar calendar is accurate to one day in 216 years relative to the solar calendar, or half as good as your Grand Seiko Spring Drive with the added bonus that you can’t really lose it on vacation, have your dog eat it, or watch as your child drops it down the in-floor heating vent. ↩
- Hardware Grill was the spot for a night out with the boys. I can’t recommend enough the short ribs and the smoky old fashioned (half-sweet).↩
- There was even a base 991 right out front (on winters ofc). On some of the iciest, snowiest roads we’ve seen all year, this was particularly noteworthy, particularly laudable transport. ↩
The haul seen above, plus another small round loaf already half-eaten by the time I made it home to take the picture, came to $27. Plus fuel, insurance, and depreciation for the 25km round-trip. Plus my time. MY TIME!!!1 ↩
- The joke was always that the fish shop was the shop that didn’t have fish, the meat shop the one with no meat, the bread shop no bread, and the cheese shop no cheese, but all were still open regular business hours because the workers had to be working somewhere! They couldn’t just be sitting at home playing video games and hurr durring on reddit like a buncha lazy capitalists, y’know ? ↩
- You recall that old Douglas Adams bit about the three phases of civilisation ? First you figure out how to eat, then you figure out why you eat, then you figure out where you eat. Your typical grocery store shopper hasn’t quite reached the first, but they’re getting there. ↩