A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Bread Euphoria

When I was a kid, we used to summer sometimes in Harwichport, on Cape Cod. Back in the day, that felt like going to another country. Driving home on the back roads--this was before the Pike was built--we'd usually stop at a little roadside stand that offered eggs for sale. (My grandmother used to keep chickens, and my mother and aunts were still fussy about eggs.) You picked out a dozen and left your change in the box, honor system. We always referred to our vacations as "going to the Cape--for eggs!"

Neighbor Maggie and I went riding out to the hills yesterday--for bread. The purported reason for the excursion was to check out a particular bakery Maggie liked....speak with the baker to see if they would cut her a deal on a volume of loaves for her upcoming house concerts.

Bread Euphoria is one of those shops you have to know is there. I've passed the spot countless times on my way up to Ashfield, without ever noticing the place. The building is set back from the road, most of it taken up by Andrew Quient pottery. The bakery is around to the side, flagged by a very modest sign.

The staff was friendly and helpful, but it quickly became obvious that there would be no Euphoric bread at the concerts. Organic, delicious, beautiful loaves like theirs have to be fresh to be fantastic, and the place is just too remote from us for a quick, last-minute pickup. The baker kindly offered the names of some artisanal bakers closer to downtown Springfield. We all know one another, she said. We're just one big group.

Of course, we couldn't go all that way without peeking at the pottery. Andrew Quient's wares are fancy, with price tags to match. Elaborate designs on harmonious forms, many of the pieces quite large. Too large and heavy for my taste, with textured, underglazed surfaces which render them pretty much useless for serving food. If I pay $450 for a something that looks like a salad bowl, I want to be able to put salad in it.

After the pottery shop and the bakery, we headed back to Northampton for lunch at Bela, a restaurant Maggie had never visited. The indulgent waitress brought glass after glass of iced tea, water, and ice, along with piles of napkins, and never batted an eyelash as Maggie sloshed and stirred, creating about a gallon of watery brew. Something about having lived down South, apparently, although I've lived down South myself and never acquired a taste for cold, weak tea by the tankerful.

We killed the remainder of the time we'd allotted "for bread" in the Broadside Bookshop. I read about gravity hills in New England, while Maggie actually purchased books. Then it was back home to the Armoury-Quadrangle neighborhood, and back to work for me. I look forward to going way the hell to Haydenville "for bread" anytime.

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