When the bakery opened this morning, a grandfather and his 20-something daughter were the first two customers in the door. I overheard him explain what a ‘duffin’ is and tell her all about our unique doughnuts. I could see how proud he was to share his bakery find with her. He told the staff he’d like to start with a box of six doughnuts, it was his daughter’s first time and he wanted her to have a good assortment to try.
I grew up in the country with my mother’s family, sandwiched between vast cornfields, cow farms and the Chesapeake Bay. There was one coffee shop, one diner, one nice restaurant…if a second one of anything ever opened, the two would battle it out until only one survived. I wasn’t exposed to much variety in the way of food beyond the dishes my grandmother prepared from the veggies she grew in her garden or the sweet treats like whoopie pies and cinnamon buns my mother brought home from the Amish bakery at the local farmer’s market. I did develop a deep love for blue crabs & Chesapeake bay oysters!
Contrary to my mother’s parents, my dad’s father was not a fan of children. In fact, I don’t remember interacting with him at all until I was a teenager. I called him Pop pop John. I was the only grandchild for eight years. When my aunt’s son was born, my grandfather said ‘I’m over this pop-pop, poppy shit. The kid can call me Sir until he’s only enough to call me John.’ From that point on, I was the only one who called him Pop pop, the rest of the family called him Sir.
John was a company man for AT&T. Watching Mad Men is like watching old family movies. My maternal grandmother taught me how to bake but it was John who taught me how to run a business. “If you’re on time, you’re late. Always bring a paper to read before the meeting starts.”
I loved spending time with my grandfather. I often felt like I didn’t belong in my home town. John opened my eyes to a world beyond the place I lived. He talked to me like I was an adult, even though I was only 12 or 13. We were both early risers. I would wake up with the sun and he was already sitting on the sofa with a cup of coffee, the Wall Street Journal in hand and CNN’s stock ticker going across the television screen. We would take a walk into town together where he would introduce me to his local favorites…a coffee shop that makes the best muffins, a bakery with exceptional croissants, the only place to buy a copy of the New York Times. When it was time for lunch, he’d take me to the bistro he discovered that only has six tables but makes the best gazpacho. I don’t think I ever had croissants, gazpacho or coffee that wasn’t Folger’s before my grandfather expanded my horizon.
If it wasn’t for my grandfather, I would have never gone beyond the Delmarva Peninsula. Each summer he and my grandmother Jackie, took me on a road trip. Over the years, we went as far up as Montreal, with stops in Boston and Burlington and everywhere in between. Then we went south to Gainesville stopping in Richmond, Charleston and St. Augustine on the way down. The summers I loved the most were the ones spent on Martha’s Vineyard where my grandparents had a house on a lake. It couldn’t have been further from my life on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. After a trip to the Black Dog Cafe to pick up breakfast, we would sit on a park bench by the waterfront. He would read the Wall Street Journal while I filled out the New York Times crossword puzzle. Our worlds collided when the WSJ started including a food section. He would send me highlights over the years. Just an envelope, no note, with a column he clipped that he thought would be of interest.
When John retired from AT&T, he took a position teaching in the MBA program at the University of Florida, his alma mater. He encouraged me to apply to the undergrad program. I wanted to study photography. He told me to major in advertising - there’s pictures and you can make money. So I did. After an internship with an ad agency gave me insight into the kind of people I would be working with, I changed my major to French and never looked back. I didn’t tell John until the semester I graduated. I knew he would be disappointed.
A year later, I told him I wanted to give up my fledgling teaching career and go to culinary school. He told me he didn’t want his granddaughter working a blue collar foodservice job for the rest of her life. ‘You’ll never make any money,’ he said. ‘You’re always going to be in debt,’ he said. My dad, who also defied my grandfather’s wishes when he opened a convenience store in a small town instead of taking a corporate job in the city, supported my decision. John and I never spoke after I enrolled in culinary school. He passed away nine months after Josie was born. She took her first step at his funeral.
He was right. I don’t make any money and I am always in debt but I love what I do every day. And he was right about the business degree. The day I completed my MBA was the day I missed him the most - until the story about me and my bakery was published in the New York Times. When he was alive, my biggest goal in life was to have a byline in the Times, I never ever imagined I would have a story about me published. I’ll never forget the day Marissa Bates told me her story idea was accepted. I was at Josie’s horseback riding lesson, somehow still upright after only 2 hours of sleep. I just had three bakers quit, at the same time, and my marriage was at a particularly low point. I was happy to see her friendly face at the barn and I fell to pieces when she told me what she was working on.
If I didn’t chose this live, I would have missed the opportunity to see another girl’s grandfather introducing her to his favorite bakery and remembering all those good times I spent with my Pop pop John.
Weekly Training Log
Monday: SWIM 500, 6x75p, 4x50d, 4x200 s, p
Tuesday: RUN: interval ladder, 1, 2, 3, 2, 1, 2, 3 - equal time on/off
Wednesday: BIKE: 50:00, 3x 4@75, 3@85, 2@95, 1@100, 5 easy
Missed my scheduled swim
Thursday: RUN: WU, 3 miles @ tempo, CD
Friday: BAKE: 4am doughnut/bread shift
Saturday: BIKE 80:00 endurance
Sunday: RUN: 65:00 - Early AM with Anne - just like the old days!!!