Today I experienced something very personal that I would like to share with you. After an intensive week of project meetings, workshops, presentations, discussions, inspirational sessions and an excursion about urban and local food, I was convinced of the result of the combined effort of the past years. I really thought: Wow! This is really going somewhere! My spirit was up!
However, biking home from our final PUREFOOD project meeting, I was thrown back into reality. As I have been in Spain (see previous posts about life in the Alpujarra) in the past months I went to my favourite bakery for the first time in 4 months. At least, that was my intension. I have been very loyal to this bakery ever since I started living in Utrecht, as it was the only (yes, the only!) true bakery left in the city of Utrecht. All the other places that call themselves ‘bakery’ are actually served by large factory bakeries located out of the city. And you can taste the difference, bread is not bread. You have real bread and you have bread that can sit in your kitchen for a week and still feel fresh (hence: that is not bread). As I am a true Dutchy, I eat a lot of bread and thus was a good customer of the bakery. I had a personal relationship with the owners (the lady was also called Els, which instantly creates a bond) and the people working there, and so I was aware that the son who was actually already owning the bakery had a brain tumor. I always assumed (or maybe hoped…) that a brother, uncle, nephew, or someone would take over temporarily or permanently. It was always packed in the bakery and it was so so nice to be there. The atmosphere was like 25 years ago, nothing fancy, just bread and friendlines.
By now, you probably know where this story is going. I naively biked to ‘my’ bakery to buy something for lunch. I parked my bike and saw they changed the interior. Very fancy ‘rough’ wood, everything neatly in order, no familiar breads and certainly no familiar prices. Hmmm… I was at unease with the situation but had to wait my turn to be helped by a young lady I had never seen before (and I knew all the people working there). Finally, I could ask the burning question: has the bakery a new owner? Very happily she responded positively. All I could say was: “O”. She told me that with the young ill baker it was impossible to keep the bakery running, the parents were getting old and there was no-one that could take it over. But at least they were also a traditional baker, she told me. So, I was relieved. Until she told me that they bake the bread in their traditional bakeries 35 km away! What?? There’s a bakery in this shop, why don’t you use that? “Too expensive and we already bake the bread overthere anyway.” I had to swollow my tears. Yes, really.
On the bike home, I tried to understand why I was so emotionally touched by the situation. For a week I had been discussing all the fantastic initiatives in cities to re-localise food; yet I can’t buy real bread anymore. So, where are we, really?