Pardon moi, I tried to read Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, because anyone pretending to be intelligent must, but gave up when I lost interest in his self-indulgent introspection. There were moments, though, like the famous Madeleine passage, that I can relate to. Yes, today I had my own Proustian moment!
Growing up in this small Western Nebraska town, there were two bakeries. People ate a lot of baked goods in the Stone Age — the days of my youth — and two bakeries did a good business of supplying those gaping maws yearning for cake doughnuts, glazed doughnuts, those cinnamon things that looked like a cross section of a tree trunk, giant ginger snaps with globs of jam in the middle, cookies, maple logs, pecan rolls, rolls slathered in thick layers of chocolate and dipped in peanuts, um…! Pardon while I pull my tongue back in my mouth and wipe the drool off my whiskers!
There was one roll that especially caused my tail to wiggle joyfully: The Bismarck, as we called them in my town, but known as long johns elsewhere.
[Maybe it’s spelled “bismark”, but I like to think it honors the Iron Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, because a roll this huge and delicious takes a heroic effort to eat. Otto himself might’ve ordered one, and the baker cleverly changed the name from “long johns” to “bismarck” to curry favor! “What is this self-indulgent bit of heaven, Herr Baker?” “Why, I call it ‘the bismarck’!”]
The two bakeries of my youth closed when the owners passed into immortality. For a time, there was no place to buy freshly deep fried globs of dough dripping sugar, stuffed with sugar, topped with ground nuts. It was a time known as “The Great and Very Deep Depression, but Don’t Ask Me About It”. No one wants to talk about that with those who didn’t go through it, yet everyone who survived it clusters around tables, in dark hallways, on the Internet chatrooms talking about when you could walk into Shad’s Bakery, plunk down your coins, and walk out with a bismarck.
Some cry when they remember. Others shudder, recalling how all that sugar hit the system, jolting you into a bright world of happiness and kittycats gamboling with lambs in the camomile-bedecked clover pastures. There was a bright, warm sun, too. I remember! I remember! Gahh!
Husbands of a certain age mumble in their sleep about “a sweet thing” or “loving a roll is sinful, but I do”, and wives cry because they, too, remember…remember… remember. (You thought this paragraph was about sex. Shame! This is a G-rated blog! Mostly….)
In time, new people decided to do something about the dearth of sweetness in this small Western Nebraska town. They scouted locations of bakeries in far places that sold these “long johns” we know are actually “bismarcks”, and pasted this intelligence on Facebook or just shared it with friends to keep the supply available for themselves and the chosen few. (We know you did this, people. We know because we would have done the same thing! Mwahahahahahaaaaa!)
Other people tried to make a go of opening a bakery, but who works that hard all those hours but a few godlike Samaritans and people who either are divorced or will be soon if they continue this insanity of getting up and working the night-shift so people can have their morning roll? They exist, folks, and they are beloved members of the community, people you want to encourage with prayer, money, praise, and word of mouth till they have to work twice as hard to keep up with the demand, then have no life but making dough, in all senses, so they close the bakery…. Oh. Never mind!
Well, there is “A New Day A-dawning” moment in this small Western Nebraska town because someone recently opened a bakery, and the supply of bismarcks is local again. I read about this new bakery on Facebook, and made a mental note to check it out. Then I kept forgetting to do it. A couple days ago, I drove by the bakery at 5 AM on my way from McDonald’s. I didn’t feel like making breakfast, but did feel like a roll. Of course, I’d already bought something at McDonald’s. I’d try again some other day.
Today was the day. It was only 4 AM. I’d already given Andy his medicine, and needed a treat for myself. Fortunately, the bakery was open, and the first thing that greeted me when I walked in was the proprietor carrying…a pan full of fresh bismarcks! She apologized because she hadn’t filled the display case yet, but was in the process of bringing out more things, if I wanted to wait. Huh! “This is exactly what I wanted to buy today,” I told her, and bought three, possibly two more than I can eat.
The roll in the photo was everything I hoped for, but I could handle a lot more sugar and calories when I was younger. But, for a second bismarck, I may just try stronger coffee and wolf the bugger down! I don’t know about the third one.