by Les Saidel - July, 2013
In our bakery, like any bakery I guess, there are certain highlights in the cycle of the year.
One of my favorites is definitely the week of Pesach (Passover) when my family and I close up shop and take a well deserved week's vacation. The runner up to that would have to be the months of July and August, summer vacation time for the rest of the people here in Israel, but not for us. This is the time for our summer workshops.
My career has been an interesting one. After school I started studying optometry but stopped in the middle and switched to studying computers, followed up by a 25 year career in the hi-tech field of computer programming. In 2008 I made a drastic gear-shift to the world of baking and running a bakery and have been ever since. Never however in all this time did I ever think that I would also become a teacher.
One of the main motivations for opening our unique bakery in the first place, was to help people - to create a healthy alternative to our staple food and try "infiltrate" people's homes (in a good way) and improve their health without them even noticing. I discovered how lacking many people were in basic knowledge about healthy diet and how they allowed themselves to be "hoodwinked" by a greedy, corrupt processed-food industry. Besides actually baking, I set myself a goal to try "educate" as many people as I could and to plant another seed in a growing movement of a return to the natural and healthy. Not a week goes by when I am not sharing the knowledge I have gained, face to face or on the phone, explaining the intricacies of a healthy diet. A natural extension to this is our summer workshops.
Every summer we conduct family workshops in our bakery and every year we vary the topic to keep it interesting and innovative. It is personally rewarding to not only actually meet many of our clients in person but also to finally be able to convey the essence of our bakery first hand. The majority of our clients have never seen our bakery, they have seen pictures, read descriptions, but actually experiencing it hands- on is something else completely. I work in the bakery day in and day out, for the last 5 years and even now, the feeling of wonder persists.
It is like a slice out of the past, vividly pulsating all around you, as you stand in wonder and revel in the nostalgia which is actual, not something out of a history book. It is amazing to see the faces of people as they enter the bakery for the first time, how it triggers something deep inside their souls. Then we start baking together and you can still detect a feeling of disbelief, that this can really be happening, this magic from a world long forgotten. Only towards the end, as realization that it is real begins to dawn, does the experience penetrate and leave a lasting, indelible mark and an unforgettable memory of something good, something wholesome, something inspiring.
I experience this every day in my work, it is a privilege to work in such a place and in such a job, but it always warms the heart to see the same reaction in others, especially children. Many deride the youth of today, the "facebook" generation, thinking that they have no appreciation for anything beyond a computer or cell phone screen. I can tell you from first hand experience that this is not true. The youth do have an appreciation for things that are "real", I see it in the gleam in their eye as they mix dough and bake their own bread, you just have to expose them to it.
I must admit a preference for teaching the younger generation, igniting a spark that will lead to further interest in something so intrinsic to our existence. That gleam in the eye is better to me than 200 breads that come out 100% perfect on my yin and yang days, and that is a great upper, believe me!.
Baking is not as romantic as many believe it to be. Working in it daily tends to dispel any misconceptions one may have of an easy lifestyle, financial security or other such fancies. It is a tough, demanding and unforgiving existence, but is made bearable only by that gleam in that child's eye, the same gleam one feels in their heart when they work there day in and day out. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
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