Saturday, October 22, 2011

Return to the Dirty Bakery


Breaded Bliss
Laval,
QC, October 2011
About these photos: We're celebrating edible week as part of our latest Thematic theme. Please click here to share your own.
We've been here before. Indeed, my wife and I practically grew up here, as this is the bakery in the middle of the neighborhood, a place known as Chomedey, where we both grew up.

My parents used to give me money on Sunday mornings, and I'd walk the few blocks to this once-upon-a-time-residential-duplex and buy bagels, salt sticks, and other core components of our family brunch. The place was always packed, and the combination of little, quiet me and a boisterous crowd of hungry customers often meant a long wait until some kind-hearted staffer took pity on me. Eventually, they put in a number-ticket-queuing system, but I still got lost in the bagel-seeking mosh pit.

Quebec being what it was back then, there was no Sunday shopping. So the stretch of Samson Boulevard, normally so busy during the week that I'd never be allowed to walk there alone, was virtually empty. As I gathered my bags of baked goodies in my arms and headed for home, I remember feeling how warm everything was as I tried to resist the urge to grab a bite before I got home. Resistance was usually futile, and I'm sure my parents often wondered why the baker's dozen was often 11 when I did the shopping.

The place is officially known as Boulangerie Premiere Qualite, or Best Quality Bakery, but no one ever called it that. It always was, and likely always will be "The Dirty Bakery", which the current owners proudly echo in the corner of the sign. My in-laws and mother still live nearby, so whenever we visit, it's a must-stop spot for us after we leave them and turn the car toward home. We'll load up on bagels, danish and anything else we can think of and sneak a few bites in before we buckle in and hit the highway.

The kids always come inside with us, and we always step back a bit as they walk the same dusty linoleum floor that we walked - and waited on - so long ago. Back in London, a place where "bakery" doesn't grab the psyche of the community to the same degree that it does here, they get their bread from the baked goods aisle of the supermarket. They don't know what it's like to have time-worn businesses like the Dirty Bakery a short walk from the house. They don't get to walk through the doors and go back in time, to a place where the same oldish ladies clucked over the little ones after finally picking them out of the crowd, where every fixture seemed to be as old as time, where everyone in the place - customers and staff alike - seemed perfectly content that nothing ever really changed.

I'm sorry that my kids don't have access to the same experiences that we did. That they don't get to walk nearly-empty streets while the world took a much-needed one-day breather. That they didn't get to nibble surreptitiously on the warm end of a sesame-seed salt stick before turning back into the cold for the lonely, quiet walk home. As we finally pack our overstuffed bags of bagels into the hatch and leave this unassuming yet pivotal piece of our shared history in the rear-view mirror, I wonder what experiences our own kids will eventually try to share with their own children. I wonder what other Dirty Bakeries they'll get to hang onto - and pass along - as they become the parents that we are now.

Looking back, I wonder if my own parents ever had similar thoughts as they carefully prepared the package of money and instructions for my weekly trips to this place. I hope I was able to bring back everything they expected.

Your turn: Do you have an important place like the Dirty Bakery in your own history?

8 comments:

CorvusCorax12 said...

i have find memories of our local bakery growing up in Germany..fresh buns almost every morning :)

Kalei's Best Friend said...

We had the old Helms Bakery.. They even had trucks going thru neighborhoods selling their breads and other products.. Now they have turned the huge old building into other shops... I can imagine the smells from your bakery! omg... nothing is better than bread baking!

Little Nell said...

Sadly no bakery, but we did used to visit a good old English ‘Fish and Chip’ shop after we had been to swiming club on Autumn evenings. SIxpence (old money) would buy us a bag of chips with salt and vinegar, and for an extra penny ‘crispy bits’ which was the beads of batter which didn’t adhere to the fish !

The Elephant's Child said...

I followed you home, and am happy I did. More information required though: why was/is the Dirty Bakery so named?
My huggable memory. My father was rarely away from home over night. If he was he brought home Toblerone chocolate. Bliss. We rarely got chocolate at other times and certainly not Toblerone.

A Paperback Writer Photos said...

There was a bakery on the corner of my street when I was a very small child. The owner was Dutch, I believe. I remember blue-painted gingerbread decorations on the outside of the building and these wonderful oblong butter cookies that seemed to melt away to nothing without chewing.

Anonymous said...

I also grew up in chomedey and have the same fond memories of the dirty bakery and I run back every time I visit chomedey. Thanks for this post about an important of our childhoods gwowing up in chomedey

Anonymous said...

Growing up in Chomedey as well now, living in Winnipeg, whenever I return I buy as much of that stuff as I can and store it in my freezer to slowly savour one special rumball at a time only to be eaten in honour of the most special of occasions.

Carmi Levy said...

I just received a delightful email from Fred Nykamp, who happened to live near the bakery some years ago. He wasn't able to post his comment to the blog, but said it would be OK for me to do so on his behalf. Here's his note:

I just came across your post about The Dirty Bakery as I was preparing to get some information about it for some friends of mine who have opened a bakery in Sauble Beach on Lake Huron, a very popular beach resort town here in Ontario with more than 15 miles of white sand beach and just a beautiful area..

Anyways, I grew up 2 streets away from the bakery and we could often smell the baking at 4 and 5 in the morning depending on which direction the wind was blowing. I was a regular there every morning and for a while when I worked in the area it was my job (pleasure) to pick up the cheese danish, cinnamon rolls or bagels for the whole work crew. Then when I worked in the city and took transit I would stop in before landing at the bus stop and the long trip to work…made the whole day something to look forward to. We got to know the owners and staff really well and still today.
We moved in 1987 and have since lived all over the world and been in some of the best bakeries, restaurants’, boulangeries, beckerie’s and patisserie’s but none compare to The Dirty Bakery….even today whenever we go back we order ahead of time to ensure we get everything and we have to bring back for our four children because they have grown up with the same…cheese bagels, danish, egg bread, cinnamon rolls and more….amazing and the experience continues, just wish we still lived a little closer at times. Thanks for writing the blog…

Some people ask why the name….well for a while it was actually on their sign out front, many years ago….because the place seemed a bit run down and maybe didn’t look that clean….which wasn’t the case, it was always spotless but it just wasn’t your typical looking bakery, a little bit more plain and simple than most, not renovated to look modern and slick, just made the whole experience even better and the reference started as the Dirty Bakery…and it actually became a real positive because only the locals could really relate to this name and then the owners thought….well what the heck…it has some charm lets put it on the sign….and it only became even more popular….and so the story goes….and lives on.

Sorry I couldn’t write on the blog it wouldn’t allow me a log in…but feel free to post my story if you like….