09 February 2011

Memories of Merridee's

I was brushing up my resume and thought about taking a stroll down memory lane. I have worked with 3 different companies so far, and each one was a unique experience.
I first worked for Merridee's. To be honest, I was just looking for a part-time job. This extremely vague classified ad began a whole new world for me. (Yes, now I'm envisioning Aladdin and Jasmine on their magic carpet ride.) Back to the story, I remember thinking, 'Yeah, I could do that. Why not?' I spoke with the head baker at the time, Donnie, and set up an interview. I was so nervous that I got there an hour and a half early. I remember peeking in the windows before calling to see where to go in, since the front doors were locked. Yeah, I just woke up my very groggy future boss. Once he arrived, we talked about tattoos, skating, wine, motorcycles, and the details of the position.
I think I took to it fairly well, even though I had only baked the regular stuff at home. The biggest thing that helped me was that Donnie emphasized using your senses instead of tools. Feel the dough. Smell the fermentation. Hear the thwap. See the stretch.
To congratulate me on my new venture, my husband gave me Brother Juniper's Bread Book. I think they meant Bible; it surely is mine. Through the two sources, I learned how all of this came together. Flour. Liquid. Salt. Yeast. Heat. Bam. Bread.
The second after holiday season was particularly slow, so I switched to the day shift. Nothing too exciting, baking wise, but the people! I got to know our regulars, see kids press their faces against the window. We even had a steady stream of celebrities, including Naomi Judd, Kal Penn, and Hayley Williams. I even met a couple, who remembered when Merridee's was in Fairview, its original location when it was a pioneer in the local, organic movement. I met Merridee's widower and got to know our owners better. I won over the Mr. Wilson type by calling him "Sport".
I think it was important for me to see the other side. We always joked that we bakers were the Keebler elves. Most of the employees never saw us until the holidays, when our shifts crossed paths due to over-time. Customers were struck with awe, when I informed them that I was the lovely lady baking their beloved Viking bread. I was proud of our work before, but now I got to see how much others enjoyed it. How much this place meant.
But at night, that's where the fun was. Friday nights were a guaranteed good time. That's when all three of us worked, me, Donnie, and Amy, the current head baker and my best girl friend. The neighboring bars and restaurants meant rich drunks stumbling about, usually asking if we would open just for them. "Just ONE cookie!" Most nights were calm, and the square took on a peaceful, if not mystical, persona.
I learned about so much music. Now, I have this collection of music dedicated just to my time at Merridee's. I know you're begging to know. Dresden Dolls, Snake River Conspiracy, Ratatatat, Dropkick Murphys, Days of the New, Tool, Queen.
I look back on it now as a good time. I got a best friend out of it, a ton of knowledge, mad props for featuring my own recipes. Most importantly, I discovered that my hands are my best asset. They can create food. Not just food but memories. They can help celebrate milestones, bring comfort, or just give people an excuse to meet or catch up.

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