Monday, September 21, 2020

The world of bread

The world of bread is the world of the future because Bread will be here long after millennials no longer have cell phones, after the end of coal, natural gas, bicycles, scooters, personal vehicles, TVs, computers, couches. Bread will sustain throughout time, I have no doubt of it.

Smoke Signals Baking (Tara Jensen)

 http://smokesignalsbaking.tumblr.com/post/101842919273/waiting-in-limbo

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Rumi

If it is bread that you seek, you will have bread.
If it is the soul you seek, you will find the soul.
If you understand this secret, you know you are that which you seek.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Happy Levain

Most modern American artisan bakers use a Chad Robertson-like formula to arrive at their dough, with young levain at 12-15% of total dough weight and a cold retard of the dough either in bulk or proofing in baskets prior to baking. The results, when done well, like our Country Loaf, are tremendous. Yet upon reading this article in the New Yorker, I realized that for the sake of space and economy of production, French bakeries of old probably didn't use this method, as it requires holding a significant amount of levain for extended periods of time. Instead, they likely used ~0.5% levain or yesterday's dough by total dough weight, rose the dough slowly at room temp (8-10 hrs), and proofed the shaped forms at room temp. This method would also explain Poilaine's methods, as well as that of old school pizza, bagel, and bialy makers in the old world and new (bagels and bialys were likely shaped after an hour rest of the dough and then left to proof slow in a shaped form prior to boiling/baking). If you use too much levain or old dough using this method, the dough becomes too sour, but at a tiny amount as indicated above, the fresh and sour flavors of fermentation are both present without overwhelming the palate. The levain must be mixed completely in the water, else it will not distribute sufficiently throughout the dough for the rise. Today, I made a delicious 30% rye artisan dough using this method, including some bialys with onion.  The dough was slightly over-hydrated, but the results were great nonetheless.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Demolition Man

A Demolition Man Taco Bell Experience Took Comic-Con by Storm /Film

In his pod with Ben Leventhal, Dave Chang speaks of a gastronomical future due to Covid akin to the movie Demolition Man, where every restaurant is Taco Bell. Earnest as he is, what he misses, in his insular bubble, is that for 95% of the country, this future has already arrived. His perception that good, scratch-made food was at all readily available pre-Covid is false. And it certainly wasn't affordable. If you travel throughout North Carolina, from Beaufort to Fayetteville to Statesville to Greensboro to Goldsboro, there are a sprinkling of restaurants that are not fast food, Wendy's, Bojangles, McDonald's, Taco Bell, and the like. The predominant food landscape of America is chain fast food. Chang talks about Domino's being a guilty pleasure that he indulges in every three months. For so much of America, Domino's or something like it in a branded takeout bag is dinner many nights. So when Chang and others talk about "saving restaurants", it is really this tiny independent subgenre that, like Wholefoods, represents only 2% of the purchases but the majority of the bandwidth. Chang has gotten into QSR before, but I think to actually get people interested in fresh foods rather than salty fatty highly processed foods like Taco Bell, one would have to lift median incomes via social welfare so they could afford to buy them (e.g. France).

Restaurants as we currently conceive of them did not arise until the 1800s, and when they did, they were for the wealthy. And to this day, restaurants, especially high-end restaurants, only exist because of ample disposable income of the bourgeois class. If people are broke or unemployed, they prefer to cook breakfast at home instead of a twelve-dollar omelette at brunch. There will simply be fewer dollars for this kind of food, and many restaurants will either close or downsize their operations as a result.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Bill Buford

Bob had emerged with a refrain: Everyone deserves good bread. It was like a calling or a social imperative. A boulanger can be counted on by the people he feeds.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/04/13/baking-bread-in-lyon

Friday, June 12, 2020

Notes and things from the Covid crisis and George Floyd protests, March 12 to June 11

3-12


3-13-20
The Bakery begins offering free food to anyone who is food insecure.

We will be smart, we will be vigilant, but we will not be cowed by this.




Sunday, June 7, 2020

Boarded Up

I had a lot of feelings last week about Downtown being boarded up. Once one owner did it, it seemed everyone did except for us for fear of the vandalism that destroyed Downtown Raleigh. I tried to write several things to hash it out. Writing is how I process. Many thanks to my friends HD, AS, MG, EL, and GG that offered input.

My first hot take:


It burns my heart to say this, but it strikes me as hypocritical that the companies that are sending out #blacklivesmatter spam to their listservs and grams are the same ones that are boarding up their businesses. Poverty in Durham didn't start with George Floyd. If we cared more about solving endemic poverty, especially child poverty in Durham, we would not have built all those shitty condos. Perhaps before an axe-throwing bar, we would have invested more in our schools, or in bi-lingual education or all-access health care. The forces of capitalism run deep, and corrupt even the most diligent progressives. As fucked up as it is, I hope this time can change some people to begin to listen, to learn that silence is a deadly weapon, and that community investment shouldn't be about dollars, it should be about humans.


Then I read this (sent by GG):


https://forge.medium.com/performative-allyship-is-deadly-c900645d9f1f



Next:


I think it's kind of hypocritical to say on one hand that you stand as one with black people and on the other believe that they are potentially dangerous vandals. It makes sense to board up from an economic standpoint, but there is a cognitive dissonance there that speaks volumes of fear. I admire Self-Help for consciously deciding to not board up [they boarded up 1 day later]. If it comes to it, and there is an imminent threat, we might do that, but not before.


i think the other thing is that these fancy restaurants really have nothing to do with black people. they are not in the dining room, they're not at the bar, and they are not in the kitchen. it would make sense to build a wall much as duke created a symbolic wall around east campus because for all intents and purposes, black people largely don't exist to ______ or ________ or ________ [prominent Durham restaurateurs].


From GG:


There's your link. I can't speak to whether black people exist to those three owners. But if that's your position, then that's the missing piece. And that is an important point: that black people are invisible until it's socially rewarded to acknowledge their presence and plight. The tokenism of the acknowledgment is revealed by the plywood boards, which themselves reveal the true underlying perspectives.


My next thought:


Instead of putting up walls and and putting up boards why don’t we transform these spaces into 24-hr coffeeshops and and encourage socially distanced ppl to congregate outside on sidewalks and streets Downtown? We show solidarity with presence, not absence. 


To HD:


_____ from _______ [a Downtown business] told me when he was boarding up he planned to get a black durham artist to paint a mural over it (ostensibly to protect it from BLM graffiti). that stinks to me of tokenism from a guy who is building condos for rich white folks.


all of durham was literally vacant yesterday, from wholefoods to durham east campus to downtown. and the reason? fear of violence / violent black folks. you should take a walk downtown. it's crazy.

and i appreciate you trying to untangle the knots with me.  it's a complicated thing.  on one hand, owners should be able to protect their businesses. on the other, there is the assessment of risk and all the underlying racism that is built into that. we'll see how things develop. it appears that a brick was thrown through a window at DPD last night but otherwise things were peaceful. it's just real complicated for me right now being open with literally every other storefront boarded at 5-points. a weird loneliness. i don't want to save anyone. i want to understand my feelings and other's feelings.

A place like _______ putting up names on their plywood just stinks of allyship and "don't vandalize me, i'm woke!"  i don't forget hattie mae, and neither should the rest of durham: https://indyweek.com/food-and-drink/news/gray-brooks-defends-hattie-mae-williams-called-captain-willing-consider-name-change/

i definitely don't want to make ppl feel bad for staying home. but i do want to explore their fear. what does it say about them, and us as a society?

This was the final version that went out to the listserv and on FB:


No Walls, No Fences, No Boards

First and foremost, we are aligned with social movements whose goal is to reform the criminal justice system and end systemic racism and police brutality.  

Second, we are luckier than almost all Downtown businesses as we’ve been able to keep bakery operations rolling along, while many have shuttered or severely limited their hours. Someone is working at the Bakery nearly 99% of the time. It's sad to see Downtown boarded up but I understand business owners’ decisions. We have not boarded up and have no plans to. I hope that this passes soon, that reforms are made, and that complicit silence and rah-rah capitalist development takes a back seat to real dialogue and systemic change. Let's all hope together for a day without walls, without fences, and without boards.

Thought bubble: If we had 24-hr businesses Downtown, would people be drawn to peacefully congregate on sidewalks, in the streets, and in greenspaces? There’s nothing to do and everyone’s sleeping poorly anyway?

What's in a Hashtag? Long Read on Performative Allyship: https://forge.medium.com/performative-allyship-is-deadly-c900645d9f1f

Subsequently, the community and the businesses have flipped the narrative entirely and now the downtown space is a canvas for black art and expression, which is great, and which I support. It remains to be seen how long the boards will stay up and whether people will be more attracted to coming Downtown, or less so as we've seen last week.

https://twitter.com/rossgrady/status/1269340761725833217?s=20


https://www.wral.com/artists-create-murals-messages-on-boarded-up-windows-on-durham-buildings/19132040/

https://twitter.com/WRALSarah/status/1269354761901559815?s=20

But there has also been critique and pushback:

https://www.instagram.com/p/CBJw6konO2b/


orecchiette


Friday, May 29, 2020

All of the Cookies

[We receive a lot of praise and positive feedback about our products and customer service. This may be the most thoughtful and kind love letter we've ever received. Republished here with the author's permission. - Ari]

by Elliot Inman   

May 24, 2020:  74 Days since the WHO Declaration of the Global Covid-19 Pandemic
       




Back in the 1990s when downtown Durham was a hollow shell of empty tobacco warehouses waiting to become something new, you could walk down the one-way streets and pass one abandoned building after the next.  There were a couple of bars and the occasional temporary storefront church that consisted of little more than a Sunday service sign and some folding chairs.  But there was almost nothing open during the day except Ninth Street Bakery.

Ninth Street Bakery was there at the tip of an isosceles triangle where two one-way streets met, its parking lot hidden behind an old brick wall.  You could walk around the wall, into the parking lot, and up the stairs to the bakery.  I don’t know how I knew it was there or how I knew you could just walk inside, but it seemed as if it had always been there.  

Not on Ninth Street, of course.  That was part of the mystery.  Not on Ninth Street at all, but there.

We did the social distancing thing, and the masks, and the infection rate went down, or flattened somewhat, but we never made the community-wide investment in testing and tracing like Asian countries did to bring infections down to near zero. Because the pathogen is so easily communicable, without going that final mile, Covid is sure to hang around for months, or years until we devise a public health plan to sweep it out entirely. Our community health, and our economy hangs in the balance.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

From Dave Wofford, Horse and Buggy Press

Dear Durham City Council, Durham County Board of Commissioners, Chamber of Commerce, OEWD, DDI, and Discover Durham folks.
**Long note here. Please print out, read, and consider.**
Preface: I am a small business owner who runs a design/publishing/arts company (Horse & Buggy Press and Friends) which includes two galleries, including PS 118 which I opened on Parrish Street in December. I am a micro-sized business in my 24th year of operation, based in Durham since 2003. I have two part-time employees and before the virus hit the plan was to move them closer to full time as we work to support the 40 plus local artists and craftspersons with work in our galleries, and dozens of writers whose work we design and publish.
Because I have a wide range of work I do, including commissioned design work not based on retail traffic, I’m not losing as much money as other retail/entertainment based businesses are currently. So I would not be applying or requesting grants that I mention below at this time. I was fortunate to receive a $1K organization grant from Durham Arts Council, a $500 grant from the North Start Relief Fund, and through Self Help I got a modest PPP loan. Those things are helping me enough at this point to limp through the summer which will be slow and I’m certain to lose money. I’m banking on things picking up in the fall (hopefully). But those kind of small things aren’t going to help larger independent retail or service businesses that are based on personal physical proximity and people density, and have higher rents, risks, and employee payroll.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Bonci

https://www.instagram.com/tv/B_rt8-TIrFO/?igshid=rz29vexazben

The Pork Bun Manifesto

Dave Chang and Eddie Huang: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-dave-chang-show/id1375877915?i=1000472772872



When the cooks are taking hold of conversations of inequity, you know it’s real.

Also, see Andrew Ullom's instagram. He too has been going buck over the myriad contradictions and failures of the U.S. reaction to Covid. Where are all the singer-songwriters now, where are all the protest songs and songs of hope?

Monday, April 27, 2020

Climate change and reduced energy usage

The amount of energy that were using right now, that is what we need to be using in total going out to have any noticeable impact on climate change. This is exactly how much oil we need to be using every day.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Things I didn't think I would be doing a month ago

Things I didn't think I would be doing a month ago:

  • Wearing masks 
  • Taking temperatures daily with a contactless head thermometer
  • Running deliveries to our parking lot
  • Arranging virtual playdates for my son
  • Being both bored, isolated, and worried how payroll was going to work our next month
  • Submitting an application for federal stimulus money
  • Sanitizing everything all of the time
  • Trying to go to the grocery store as little as possible
  • Regularly worrying about my parents and sisters
  • Receiving so many Facebook friend requests of people I haven't heard from in years, and even Facetiming them

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Bread in the Time of Coronavirus: The Long Emergency

Very scary times right now. Panic and anxiety seem to be hovering like a cloud over Durham.

Ordinarily, when I am feeling overwhelmed, all I can do is work my way out of a jam. By keeping my nose close to the grindstone, I prevent myself from being overcome by feelings and ideas that I can't control. Working allows me to become immersed in a project, and feel valued and valuable.

But in this situation, unlike a temporary emergency, the unknowns are so great that even working harder may be impossible. We are in a long emergency without any kind of clearly defined end point. It could be months, or it could go straight through the summer, or it could go dormant and the virus could return next Fall and we could be right back into the same situation again until a vaccine is developed, if a vaccine is developed. The rabbit hole of the long emergency is deep and dark.

Our world is unprepared for crisis. We have a better health system, better medicine, and better public health protocols than during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. And yet, due to the globalized, capitalized, interconnected nature of the world economy, the effects of literally stopping and quarantining economic production has the ability to create recessions or depressions, throw countries into economic disarray, especially those reliant on tourism or consumer spending (like the U.S.).

Monday, I came out of a workout in East Durham at my gym, and did a short cool-down run along Angier Avenue at 7:30am. It had been a cold night, and the temperature hovered around 37 degrees. On the curb of Guthrie Ave., homeless folks built an open fire to keep warm with the types of small sticks you might collect from your yard. We looked at each other, me in my running shorts and long sleeve tee, them standing around this tiny open fire by the curb.

Our city is unprepared for crisis because the crisis of poverty has stricken Durham for some time without resolution. While we should give thanks for what we have, and I regularly do, we need to help the neediest, to share this immense wealth we have generated in a time of easy credit and seemingly infinite resources.

We can become stronger through this crisis. There is no safety net for folks on Guthrie Ave. There is no safety net for hourly workers without paid sick leave.  

We have been asleep for years, diddling in City Hall and the State Capitol while regular folks undergo the most severe deprivations imaginable.

One night years ago, I took a wrong exit getting onto the New Jersey Turnpike at a confusing interchange and went North instead of South. When I explained this to the tollbooth operator, she was unsympathetic. "Do you want to pay more?" she asked. I didn't quite hear her through her accent and tried to explain my mistake. "DO YOU WANT TO PAY MORE?!" she finally shouted at me. With the threat of a ticket, I paid her the turnpike fees for my mistake and humbled, went on my way.

We have paid dearly already for our mistakes, our unpreparedness, our apathy, and our guilt. But do we want to pay more? We have the capacity to build a true safety net, to conserve and not waste our natural resources, to see the value of commodities in a shrinking planet, to not prize a sexy intellectual economy over centuries of hardscrabble self-sufficiency and self-reliance.

This might be our legacy.

If history is any precedent, once people get a cake, they want the leader that is most likely to keep giving them cake, or promises more cake than they already have.  They only want revolution and social welfare and change when there is already a widespread demand for that.  When people are needy. The "change" Obama aspired to used rhetoric that hearkened back to a Civil Rights movement that lifted people out of deprivation and racist policy en masse. But Obama's legacy was largely achieved in rhetoric only, and not in terms of real policy change or redistribution of wealth. Obama kept the cake coming, and the nation remained racist and stratified. Voters are picking Joe Biden over more progressive, change-oriented candidates like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren for one reason: not because he is so eloquent, or because his platform is so robust, but because he reminds them of a guy that once let them eat cake.

Recommendations:

1. Durham should have a city-wide crisis self-sufficiency plan.

2. Durham should have a means to ensure safety net services for all citizens before engaging in any business-as-usual development.

3. Durham should have a means to redistribute wealth so as to actively mitigate stratification.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Earth Fare closes

Earth Fare, longtime customer of the Bakery, has filed for bankruptcy, in a supermarket war that has only gotten more intense locally as Publix, Wegman's, and Sprouts have entered the market.

https://wlos.com/news/local/earth-fare-asheville-debt-bankruptcy-timeline

Thursday, February 6, 2020

The grit whisperer


(Also, nice mention of Bill Neal, founder of Crooks Corner and granddaddy of Southern Nouveau)

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

We Are The Weather

We started a quarterly "Book of the Season" sale in November with Emily Wallace's Road Sides. This month we introduce We are the Weather by Jonathan Safran Foer

Image result for we are the weather

Our blurb:

Jonathan Safran Foer’s We are the Weather tackles global warming, our eating habits, and the helplessness we feel in the face of corporations and legislators that are ruining the environment for our children. Disturbing in a cathartic way, his alarmist prose activates with humor and pathos, spurring us to question our daily activities and the politicians who would deign ignore the obvious disruption to Mother Nature’s ordinary workings. Just as Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me was penned as a letter on race to his son, Foer frames his polemic through both the lens of his children and his Holocaust-surviving grandmother. For the sake of your children and grandchildren, read this book now!

We seem to be in a cultural moment where we are highly focused on recipes and cookbooks detailing  archetypal comfort food (e.g. hummus, babka, artisan pizza). I heard a podcast yesterday where David Chang went on at length to describe his "perfect" BLT. Safran Foer's book seems to beg the question: What if the massive collection of all these rediscovered homespun recipes like pie crust and biscuits and mandelbrot are some of the last that will be published before civilization-changing climate change decimates the food culture we have come to exalt and fetishize as so called "foodies"? What kind of world will it be where New York-style pizza is no longer readily available and also no recipes exist for how to make it, and even if one could make it, there is no commercial yeast, or no conventional roller-milled white flour (fyi - white flour was only available to the rich in the 1800s)? Baking and cooking recipes/processes/methods are not only technology, but knowledge that could disappear in a generation or less. Let's commit to treasuring and saving recipes for delicious handmade, homemade food.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Fear

The average customer perception in 2020 in Durham is that there are more good restaurants and openings than ever before, but the possibility of oversaturation and market dilution due to online food purchasing, changing diets, and changing work patterns has sparked the fear nerve centers for many restaurateurs. Fine dining holds less cache than it once did, and while this is a small segment of the overall dining public, it is seen as a bellweather for the health and vitality of the industry.  Satisfaction, Tyler's Taproom, Cuban Revolution, Watts Grocery, Blu Seafood, Primal, Big Bundts, Saint & Co. The Boot, Bagel Bar, and Lilly's all closed in 2019. Some of those restaurants were decade(s)-plus mainstays of the community. Greater are the number of restaurants under financial pressure to make it in an environment with a shallow labor pool for skilled kitchen talent and the long pockets of corporate players (such as Wholefoods) and well-capitalized restaurant groups outbidding the smaller players for hiring. In addition, January and February can typically be two of the slowest months all year -- these doldrums amp up the anxiety in restaurant management. 

Outside of the industry, I sense fear, and sometimes feel overwhelmed by a host of bad things that dominate the news, both local and national. Am I the only one? Cell phone distraction, random violence and police brutality, nightly car burglaries, daily car accidents on I-40, climate change disturbances to our growing seasons, child deaths and carbon monoxide poisonings in Macdougald Terrace, a fake Trump impeachment trial, saber rattling in Iran, Kobe Bryant dying in a horrific accident, and the looming one-year anniversary of the Kaffeinate explosion (that took out a city block, was cleared to the foundation, and on top of which will be built what?) which seems largely forgotten. What happened to #durhamstrong? Where is Durham and the country going I ask?

Ninth Street Bakery is protected from some of these prevailing winds by our loyal customer base, our reach into different wholesale bread markets, and our central location in Downtown Durham. Nonetheless, we feel these feelings too and hope that everyone supports good local foods and farmers this Winter and early Spring.