I love bakeries. I love everything created and made by hand inside of bakeries. My favorite bakeries are the small ones - the local ones - the ones that aren’t part of any chain - the ones no one’s ever really heard of, except those who live right there in that same town alongside it.
Sure, I seem to always find time and room for Dunkin and Starbucks, etc. In fact, where else do I run to while on a long road trip but for a Dunkin coffee to keep me awake while I’m driving? But what about all those bakeries scattered across the country that don’t have a drive-thru attached? The bakeries you actually have to get out of your car for, and go inside the building to place your order??? Those bakeries... tend to be the best bakeries.
I like to think that my passionate love of bakeries and their heavenly creations runs in my blood... My grandfather was a baker for well over forty years. And when he wasn’t working, both he and my grandmother were at home. They spent hours upon hours in the kitchen. Always cooking. And always baking. Some of my favorite memories with both of them include time well spent in that small kitchen. My sisters and I helped them cook all kinds of food. But my favorite foods they made were their baked goods, of course.
My Papa taught us how to hand-roll the dough to make kolacky cookies. We always started by pouring flour onto the table-top - that was my favorite part - making a purposeful and deliberate mess. We rolled the dough and we put in the jellied fillings. We watched them bake. My grandparents made hundreds of cookies, each and every Christmas, before their health declined and they could no longer do it. It seemed to me that everyone they knew was given a large and heaping full silver aluminum tray of kolackys to take home and enjoy on the holiday. I’ve yet to be able to replicate those amazing cookies. I am continually determined to try though.
I believe my grandparents teaching us these skills in the kitchen has held influence on my life and transformed my love of food, and really just helped me become the person I am today. Foods are tradition. And when my husband and I bake now, not making nearly as much at a time that my grandparents did in their prime, we are always sure to pass some goodies along to a neighbor, a friend, or to whomever we will be seeing in the coming days.
This holiday season I am looking forward to baking chocolate chip cookies, frosted sugar cookies, and Angeletti cookies with my husband. It is now tradition in my home, and someday I’m going to replicate that kolacky as well… maybe even this year.
When I lived in Illinois, there was an abundance of local bakeries. I could go in any suburb surrounding me, living just outside of Chicago, and find a bakery. There was never a shortage of places to pick up special cookies for Easter, a coffee cake to bring to a party, or a cake for a special occasion. And my hubby’s favorite item served at any bakery are always their frosted sugar cookies. Me - I like the chocolate donuts. Simple, basic, and the best ever.
In my hometown, the Orland Park Bakery is one of God’s best creations. I make it a point to stop there at least once, and most likely always much more than once, every time I go up for a visit.
Some years back, I remember one cold December day, my husband and I decided to make the trek all the way out to Chicago just to visit a local bakery and pick up their special St. Nicholas Day gingerbread cookies. My hubby had them in his youth every year, so we wanted to bring the tradition and memories back, and he really wanted me to try them for the first time.
Well, being a self-proclaimed bakery connoisseur by this point in my life, I should have well known that making the very long trek fighting through Chicago holiday traffic and ridiculously sloppy weather to arrive at a bakery around two in the afternoon... is really not the best time to arrive at a bakery.
Bakeries thrive in the mornings. They are the place to be - in the morning. After almost two hours in the car and arriving mid-afternoon, what in the world was I thinking? We definitely should have gone in the morning for this adventure? But that was a different life I lived, and now I am fully awake by five am daily. Anything later - I tend to consider myself sleeping in.
We parked and walked through the icy cold and the busy and festively decorated street to find the bakery, just about to close. The window displays were empty. And once inside, the shelves were near empty as well. Sold out for the day of all product. I was crushed.
We inquired... And somehow, by some miracle of the bakery Gods up above, they still had a few St. Nicholas Day cookies left… We’ll take them! We were ecstatic. We took all that remained. Thrilled. We also snagged up a pre-arranged box of their sprinkle cookies simply because it was all that reminded for sale, sitting on a counter and patiently waiting to go home with someone. It was only after this outing did I learn that I could actually pre-order special product at bakeries to guarantee them available when I arrive to pick up.
So we were on our way out of the bakery to leave them be as they closed up for the day. It would be many more years before I learned my lesson about “sleeping in” and my enrollment in my own 5am Club membership. To me, at the time, we had simply just ‘lucked out’ that’ they had some cookies left for us to purchase.
We then strolled just a short ways down the street from the bakery and dined at a local Bohemian restaurant. It was an old building, and a place beautifully decorated for the upcoming holiday. It was an altogether lovely outing. An outing entirely revolved around bakery as the destination.
When I moved to Florida, it was my definite perception and really became quite hard to find a good bakery. They weren’t nearly as abundant as they were in Illinois. And when we did find a bakery - it didn’t taste the same as up north! I am extremely biased though...Chicago has the best food, and nothing else even comes close. So it’s very difficult for me to compare the delicious food from the north with the different food in the south.
Today, bakeries are still part of my life. I recently lost a lot of weight and made a complete lifestyle change these past few years. I am much healthier than I was during the earlier part of this decade. I had gained weight during a lot of inactivity, and now I have lost it all, and am quite happy to say that I am very healthy. I lost 83 pounds lost to be exact. I go into great detail on my weight loss journey here if you’d like to check out how I lost 77 of those pounds in one year’s time.
How can I be so healthy now and still eat donuts regularly? The answer is simply moderation. And - Discipline. I can eat ALL THE THINGS. Just not ALL THE TIME. I believe that when one fully grasps and understands that simple and basic concept, it can truly be life-changing.
And I love baked goods so much that I currently plan a once-a-month outing to our local bakery - Cinotti’s, located in Jax Beach, FL. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Declared on the top of each box. I lost 83 freaking pounds, while eating treats and breads and pastas and pizza and ice cream - AND - bakery, lots of Cinotti’s Bakery.
By establishing that roughly once-a-month outing, this allows for me to have the tasty treats that I love and never, ever want to give up, but also allows for discipline and patience in between outings. All that discipline and patience make for a stronger person. I don’t eat donuts every day - I eat them roughly once a month. And as I’m sure you’ve probably read in every magazine out there preaching at you on how to get healthy - don’t restrict. Don’t eliminate… Meaning, don’t erase foods from your life to get healthy. Learn to live WITH the foods you love. Because life is too short not to eat donuts. Just don’t eat them all the time. Simple, right?
These outings are so important to me I classify them by name - and time-and-date stamp them into my iPhone calendar as well. I then share the calendar event with my hubby so he knows when we are going out for donuts. Yay!
We have called these visits many things… Fabulous Friday, Wacky Wednesday, Tasty Tuesday, and Terrific Thursday. Whatever we call it isn’t important though; it's simply putting a name to an event on the calendar that is now tradition. Right now, hubby and I are living through our monthly ‘Totally Terrific and Tasty Tuesdays’ - That means we go to Cinotti’s, once a month, on a Tuesday. And my iPhone tells me as much, once a month. So simple, and sooooo delicious.
And for our November visit to the bakery, our furry baby Madeline was officially included in this little tradition of ours…. When I happened to glance down while we were paying, and underneath the cash register area toward all the little holiday trinkets for sale inside the shop... dog bones! Better yet - BAKERY dog bones! I was thrilled once again. How absolutely and utterly adorable. Made with flour and peanut butter and really just a few simple ingredients safe for a doggie’s tummy, and with a label calling them Canine Cookies… I HAD to purchase them! When we got home Madeline had the single best treat she ever had in her life. I know this not because she told me in English, but because she literally cried out loud for more after she was done with her very special bone. Even dogs love bakery.
And now that I know there is life out there at five am, and that is also roughly when bakeries are usually turning on their lights for the day, we would never now show up at the bakery at such a late hour as two in the afternoon. When that time of the month arrives, and my iPhone vibrates and jingles to tell me it’s our Totally Terrific and Tasty Tuesday, we go outside and exercise before the sun rises, and then head right on over to Cinotti’s. We arrive there fairly early in the morning, when they are fully stocked and selection is overflowing. Parents are bringing in their school-aged children up to the counter so they can pick up a special treat on their way to dropping them off at school. I think of my Papa and all his years upon years of hard work in the bakery. I walk outside carrying my taped, cardboard box of goodness, and I miss him terribly. This box of bakery is a special way of remembering him. Yes, life is too short not to eat donuts. And we bring home our box along with some peanut butter baked dog bones to our very happy, little, eight year old puppy. ~
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