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Bread Not Bricks

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"Growth for its own sake is the ideology of the cáncer cell." -Edward Abbey Dn recent articles I have harped upon the questionoflargebuildingsconstructedin downtown Ann Arbor with no apparent concern for the surrounding neighborhoods. I even pinpointedformer mayor Lou Belcher as the individual responsible for certain particularly imposing structures. Tve since done a bit of investigation. (Nothingserious.youunderstand. Minéis a whimsical approach to joumalism. But if s interesting to note what hearsay has to say). One source of information implied that only 301 E. Liberty can be said to have been financed and raised up by Mr. Belcher, who hung out with a sodality of investors who together represent that sort of "development." This is important; I made the mistake of singling out one businessman, while it should be noted that these men work both independently, as singular agents of free enterprise, and as a group, determined to leave their mark upon the city. Now l'm not here to whine about changes per se. Change is the only constant phenomenon we have. There's an old Jazz proverb which states: "Taint whatcha do if s the way ho wya do it - thaf s what gets results." Various buildings downtown are a grim reminder that at any point somebody might decide to put some changes on us which simply because of their sheer enormity might remain for many years. Will they ever tear down Tally Hall - so mindless, empty and ugly? Not likely - for this monstrosity contains a parking structure. And in Ann Arbor a parking structure is worth its tonnage in parking tickets. It is a source of great (and perverse) amusement to me that Tally Hall sits like an abandoned movie set in the heart of our town. Nice going, dudes. Any more bright ideas? Belcher caused a dizzying cluster of bricks to be built at the corner of Fifth and Liberty. Every time I walk past t, buffetted by high winds which gust down the face of it, I am amazed by the sheer mass of the thing. This has got to be the world's largest sub shop! Myimagination runs rampant as I picture theentire se condfloordevotedtocheeses, the third floor occupied by meats, a great stash of lettuce, tomatoes and vats of mayo on the fou rth , and the remaining floors packed with buns. That's a heil of an operation! To be fair, Quizno's Sub Shop, snappily visible on the first floor, is a worthy enterprise, run by good people. And there are other businesses tucked away in the brick behemoth, businesses which provide employment for United States citizens. Nevertheless, the fact that so much hypothetical office space has been created, and often stands empty in buildings of this ilk, this makes townies like myself bristling mad, and we come to resent the buildings - not their tenants, but the buildings themselves and the men who caused them tobe built. 301 E. Liberty seemsabominable when compared with what used to be there. When first I carne to Ann Arbor in the late '60s, there was a dreary little drycleaning operation on that plot of land. Then in the mid 70s it became a bakery unlike any bakery we had ever experienced. Therearecool little bakeries in Hamtramck and Mil waukee, but these places follow the briskly American culinary traditions of Fanny Farmer, who discovered that putting sugar in any food wou ld make people want to eat more of it. Sugar, sugar everywhere, and we can't sleep at night. If s like amphetamine, and we give it to kids. The Sun Bakery used honey. Lots of it. I became intimately familiar with the physical properties of honey, for during the summer and autumn of 1976 I was a teenage baker's assistant, wrestling a cookie machine before dawn and whiling away the rest of the day cleaning up the residues of our beautifully styhzed bakings. The scraps and blobs of flour& honey which adhered to the floors were called scroat. lts removal took terrific amounts of energy, using hot water and a steel-bladed ice chopper. Honey is better for you than sugar, but ifs a lot like glue to work with. Accidentally leaving a certain valve open could lead to an industrial honey spill. Just think of it! The Sun had come together as an extensión of the Eden's baking project, which lived at the back of an alley off of Maynard Street across f rom Nickel's Arcade. Canterbury House used to be there. My bossesat the Sun were a driven specimen by the name of Nick, and a tall, intense fellow called Bob. I can still see him with a kerchief round his head and a very long beard with telltale signs of whipping cream at the edges. (Today he's called Robert and manages a supermarket on Main Street). I spent a lot of time assisting Bob in the touchy business of putting danishes together. We also produced enormous quantities of granóla, thousands of loaves of bread and the inevitable chipatis. Chipatis (Bob called them "Chumps") were roasted over the open burners of an antiquated cast iron stove. The chipatis were flipped using a short pair of tongs. One good session with that setup and your arms and hands would become completely devoid of hair! I leamed through pain how to move my hands quickly. At most other tasks I was terribly slow, being a spaced-out eighteen-year-old, and a bakery is no place to dawdle. Food service in general is an experience everyone should have at least once per lifetime. I don't know how some folks manage to stay with it as a career. We had a bulletin board with newspaper clippings describí ng violent crimes committed by bakery staffers from all over the worid! My favorite was the homicidesuicide story of a guy at a bread factory in the Philippines who went bonkers, machine-gunned a bunch of co-workers, and threw himself into a giant dough mixer! Baking: ifs not foreverybody. A very important member of our crew was an Englishman named lan Titterton, whose most interesting contribu tion was a centunes-old recipe for Eccles Cakes, which were like rounded scones with black currants predominating. lan also did most of our cake decorating. He had thick eyebrows and a pleasantly thick British drawl. I would tease him about it, giving him a clothespin to damp his nose so he'd sound more Midwestem. For awhile Mr. Titterton ran lan's Patisserie, remember that? Last I heard he was baking in New Orteans. Chazz Dayringer was our muffin man. He went on to own and opérate the Dayringer Bakery , an outstanding business which struggled and finally succumbed to its dreary location next to Kroger's on Broadway. I miss Dayringer's and I miss the Sun. Luckily we have the Wildflour Community Bakery on Fourth Avenue, which is remarkably similar to how I remember the Sun. (The herb-onion bread has got to be made from the same recipe the Sun used; the aroma is unmistakable.) The moral of this story is: whenever possible, support the businesses which opérate most effectively in harmony with your community. There are lotsof pi aces toget decent bread in Ann Arbor, but I find myself choosing Wildflour's. They are a collective operation with participating volunteers, and there's an emphasis on whole grains and organically produced ingredients. (No poisons or icky blue fertilizers in the wheat fields or in your sandwiches). They've also got an educational program whereby a representativo from the bakery goes to elementan schools and teaches little kids how to bake a loaf of bread. I admire this, and state openly that believe in Wildflour, and in its bread. There i s a close connection between Wildflou r and the People's Food Co-ops. These are wo rthy organizations, and they deserve your continued support. I would like to leave you with the words of PFC Board President Carolyn Dana Le wis: "...the natural foods market in Ann Arbor has recently become more competitive. A national, privatelyowned chain has opened a store; plus, other stores in town have added more natural foods to their selec tion. Asa result of these... circumstances, the co-op - especially our store on Packard - needs strong support. People's Food Co-op has acommitmenttoproviding the Ann Arbor community with a wide selection of foods that promote berter nutrition, sustainable forms of agricultura, and environmental responsibility. Since it is a democratically-controlled business, you own the co-op and you can help it remain healthy and grow."


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