I’m headed back to Toronto… My early departure from Victoria, headed to Swartz Bay for the ferry across to Tsawassen, was a real gift, for the landscapes I drove past were more like dreamscapes. Green pastures were enrimed, it’s the only word really, coated with hoarfrost. That cold ground, as the sun came up and warmed the air a little, created an ethereal mist that floated tantalisingly, a gauzy drift of scarf that hid and revealed at the same time. What a beautiful farewell to Vancouver Island.
Now I’m parked out by some green grass near the water and near the airport, enjoying fresh air and the light-shade-light of the cloud-patched sky, before I submit to the closed-off atmosphere of the airport and the airplane for the rest of the day. I’m listening to the CBC, an interview on Q with Bryce Destner, a member of the group The National who has been composing for the Kronos Quartet; his work is on a new recording by the quartet called Aheim. I’ve been a fan of Kronos for a long time, but this interview makes me realise that I haven’t kept up with them at all. Time to break out of old patterns and explore new recordings, new music.
Yesterday gave me good time with my cousins, and then a wonderful dinner of reconnection with old friends I haven’t seen for nearly ten years.
But before that I had a very interesting visit to Cliff Leir’s bakery Fol Epi (meaning a stalk of wild grain). I’d met him over a year ago at the Kneading Conference West. But I hadn’t realised all that he does at the bakery. He’s milling all his own flour, (bakes with it after a one-week rest), uses Red Fife as his wheat, and also bakes with rye. He made his own mill, using stone millstones from the eastern US, and he also built his bread oven. The oven is deep, brick lined, and wood-fired. But instead of making the fire ahead on the baking surface and then brushing it away so he can bake, Cliff has the firebox under the oven. The hot air then circulates through the oven (and there are several options for directing its flow). The result of the design is that he can do a large number of bakes, and can adjust and add to the fire or raise the heat without interfering with the baking.
I’m not sure if any of what I have just written makes sense to you. I hope it does. I found the whole design very practical and impressive…it’s also beautiful, especially when side-lit by slanting winter morning sun.
If you are ever in Victoria, do go and have a look at the bakery, just across the bridges from downtown Victoria in Esquimault. Cliff is also playing around with other kinds of fermentation, making kimchi and sauerkraut, both of which he uses as flavourings in the sandwiches on offer at the bakery.
It’s the first time I’ve seen the details of a bakery where the baker has taken control of everything except growing the the grain. Milling is so important, and is such a wild-card variable for many artisanal bakers. It’s great when grain is milled at the farm, but I think this baker-miller way of working must be even more satisfactory for the baker, giving more control, and more chance to experiment.
Now it’s time to go and hand in this rented car. I’ll post this online in the next hour or so, once I’ve checked in and found a place to connect to the internet.
I am sorry to leave the beauties of the west coast, but I am really looking forward to getting back to working on recipes for Persian World. And this bakery visit has made me impatient to start playing around with sangak and other Persian breads in my home oven.