Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Cranky Baker

More-or-less across the street from our apartment is a bakery, renowned for having the Strasbourg's best kougelhopfs (an Alsatian pastry I wrote about here). It's our go-to place for bread.

This is not the Cranky Baker, who is on vacation. I don't have an affectionate nickname for this girl. She's very nice though.

We are usually served by a woman we dubbed "the cranky baker." It wasn't very nice of us, as she was always very polite. However, for at least for the first 6 months we went there, she never once cracked a smile. She would rush through our order with a grim efficiency that I interpreted as saying that she did not like her job, did not like bakeries, and did not feel inclined to like us or any of her other customers.

We should not have judged so quickly.

Gentle soul that I am, I was usually inclined to buy my bread and exit the store as quickly as I could, as seemed to be the lady's clear preference. Amynah, being made of sterner stuff, is not a force to be intimidated by mere hostility. She therefore resolved to crack this woman's reserve. She began her attack with little steps: a "comment ça va?" here and there, a remark on the weather, a little compliment on how much she likes the "petit pains."

The war was over before it began. Remarkably quickly, the Cranky Baker warmed up to us - it was as if she'd only been waiting for someone to give her a reason to chat. She'd greet us as we came in, or note if we were earlier or later than usual. And soon, even, she began to smile – and a wonderful, transformative smile it was, setting her face alight.

In any case, a couple of weeks I went in to get a loaf of fresh bread to defile for my peanut-butter and banana sandwiches. While there, I mentioned that we had bought a kougelhopf mould, and asked if it were possible to get their recipe so we could continue to enjoy their specialty in California. The cranky baker immediately went to the shop window and returned with an entire book of recipes for me, pointing out the page where their recipe was: "It's usually 8 Euros, but please, take it as a gift."

Obviously, we can’t call her the Cranky Baker anymore. But the Friendly Baker just doesn't have the same ring.

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