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Song Of A Baker - Why I Am Who I Am

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Song Of The Baker

Song Of A Baker - Why I Am Who I Am

I find myself on a rare occasion of being bored, having no work to do and no bread to bake or post.  Perhaps a good opportunity to share a little about my journey to bread baking.

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Little did I know at the time, but the 'knead' to make bread was deeply rooted within my creative core long ago...

From the time I was in my early teens (good god, about 23 years ago!  I've always dreaded math), I had a creative drive within me that was itching to get out.  Luckily for me, my parents were willing and able to put me through music lessons.  I started out with piano and keyboards then moved onto the organ.  At this time, I was discovering the magic of classic rock and roll.  Listening to such bands as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, The Doors, to name a few.  I spent hours upon hours in my room, rewinding and listening and learning all those organ solos on my Hammond organ and Leslie speaker combo.  To this day I can still play the entire organ solo to Light My Fire by the Doors, even though I only touch a keyboard maybe once every 2-3 years.  A few good friends and school mates started a band.  I took the lead singer role and keyboards.  By the time we were 15, we played our first gig at a local club in downtown Vancouver.  Quite an experience to have at 15.  Even though we were so young, the bar tender offered us a few drinks each (parents approved of course),  All 4 of us hard rock and rollers ordered peach coolers.  Not beer.  Peach coolers.  Very rock and roll *ahem*.  Soon after, we recorded our first cassette tape of about 5 or 6 songs.  By the time junior high ended we disbanded and I took up a new instrument.  The guitar. 

In high school, when we were about 17, we started another band that would turn out to be a major part of my life for the next 7 years.  We had a good following, released an album that received some good reviews, appeared on a local TV show which aired quite a bit across Canada.  We were selling out shows and headlining in the most popular night clubs on weekends.  At one show, The Bare Naked Ladies gave us a standing ovation and wanted to meet us backstage.  This was too surreal at our age.  I was going to college and working by day, and playing shows at night.  I was having the time of my life.  My creative juices were flowing and were being spread out to family, friends and strangers to experience and enjoy.

In 1997, a few members decided to call it quits and it was the end of my music life, at least to that degree.  Over the years, I continued to pick up the guitar every once in a while, or go to a local music shop and play a piano for a few minutes.  It just wasn't the same.  By this time, I had a business degree behind me so I started working full time in management positions I was not happy with.  I did this for the next 6 years or so.  About 7 years ago I was given the opportunity to come aboard my father's painting contracting business, so I took it.  The position in the company proved to be stressful, challenging and more time consuming than I could ever imagine.  Here I am.  A manager in a high volume construction industry contracting company.  Nothing remotely close to an avenue that would allow ANY creativity to flow out of me.  It has been a very difficult last 7 years mentally and emotionally.

Last summer, I was at a cross roads.  Take over the business from my retiring father the next year, or move on and do...well, I still don't know what.  Due to the frightening unknown, I chose the former.  At that exact time, there was a major project contract I had bid on.  The bidding process was extremely gruelling and took a lot out of me mentally and physically.  I landed in the emergency room with exhaustion.  We needed this project.  Badly.  Not knowing if we landed the project or not, I had to get away for a week and try to recoup.  It was then, on that trip that I walked by a bakery cafe and was drawn to the artisan made breads stacked in the window.  I always loved and appreciated bread.  The comforting texture and flavour and look.  This feeling and urge was new to me though.  I suddenly wanted to be part of the creation of this magnificent display in the window.  The bakers in the shop were rock stars in my eyes.  I wanted to ask them questions and talk to them about the process of baking bread.  All these crazy urges, all within 5 minutes of seeing those beautiful boules, baguettes and batards.  I did not talk to the bakers, and I did not get their autographs.  Nor did I buy any bread.  I did however, come home from that trip learning that we did in fact get awarded the contract that we so much needed for the business.  But I still did not feel what I felt walking past that bakery.

That weekend I spent hours reading articles about bread and searching web pages dedicated to home bread baking.  Is it possible for one to learn how to make breads at home such as the ones I saw in the window of that bakery?  Don't you need years and years of schooling?  What about all the equipment?  Surely one would need to spend $10,000 + on an oven, no?  I stumbled on The Fresh Loaf and started reading blogs and forums as a non-member.  My questions were quickly answered that yes, it is possible that I could learn how to make bread at home.  Having never touched my hands on bread dough before in my life, I began to bake bread.  I felt that passion rise up again.  I was feeling something I had only felt when I picked up my guitar and wrote music those years ago.  This is what I needed so badly in my life.  An outlet for all that stress I deal with at my work.  Something to once again create and share with those important to me.

Yes, I decided to take over the family business.  Of course there is always the satisfaction of feeling proud in keeping my parent's hard work and determination all those years alive going into the future.  But other than that and possible financial opportunity, there is nothing more that this career will ever give me in what I truly need to flourish.  Baking bread however, has given me a creative outlet that I craved all those years after the music stopped.  A creative process where I can once again be part of from start to finish.  To make, to feel, to share.  To enjoy.  Music it is not, but it is a song of the baker.

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Here is a link to one of the bands that influenced our music, The Posies.  This is a great rendition of 'Song Of A Baker,' a song by classic rock's Small Faces.  I found it quite fitting to use a tag name inspired by a song that I loved long before I ever imagined I would be baking bread.  For all you rock and roll aficionados, turn up your speakers and enjoy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb9Y9syHW_I

Lyrics below:

There's wheat in the field
And water in the stream
And salt in the mine
And an aching in me.

I can longer stand and wonder
Cos I'm driven by this hunger.

So I'll jug some water, bake some flour,
Store some salt and wait the hour.

When thinking of love,
Love is thinking for me
And the baker will come
And the baker I'll be

I'm depending on my labour,
The texture and the flavour

Hey!

I can no longer stand and wonder
Cos I'm driven by this hunger

So I'll jug some water, bake some flour.
Store some salt and wait the hour.

 

Comments

varda's picture
varda

Hi again John,   Thank you for sharing your story.   It's a good one.   I for one scratch my head when I try to figure out how I ended up thinking that making bread was just about the best thing going.   Strange.  -Varda

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

My pleasure Varda.  Thought it was time to share how by chance I stumbled into this now important bread thing.

John

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Great story ... Reminds me of a recent podcast by 'This American Life' about everyone's "Plan B" ... and how most of us are not living the "Plan A" we had in our minds when we were younger. I never had a Plan A so everyday is a surprise for me :)

I would say looking back over my time that I would be up to Plan H by now  ... at least! :)

Keep on baking and sharing John.

Cheers,
Phil

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Thanks Phil.  Yes, Plan B, C, D, etc., are the important prerequisites to the ultimate Plan L.  Life.

I think we will all agree that Plan A is just so much more fun though.

Take care.

John

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Very interesting post, John.  Thanks for sharing.

Regarding life plans, I always think of the line in John Lennon's Beautiful Boy "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

 

I can't believe I'd never heard this song before.  Great tune.

And, just my two cents, I always come up with Deep Purple's Hush as my favorite rock organ tune.

Cheers.

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Floyd.  Thanks for those Lennon lyrics.  Very fitting and true.

Song Of A Baker was a small hit by the Small Faces back in the late 60's.  I never heard of the song either until my fave band, The Posies, did this version that I posted back in 1994.

Hush has a great solo in it for sure.  I remember sitting in our studio for hours trying learn that one.  My ultimate favourite Deep Purple organ song is...well I have a few.  Highway Star, and Lazy, but the Live In Japan version.

John

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Thanks for sharing the high adventure of your life....Strange how our lives do all unfold. I never had a plan A....just kept going wherever there was an opening and a beckoning.  Didn't consciously plan it this way....just happened :)  I have always envied people who do have plans and who follow through but now I know that is just how their lives are supposed to be too....

 I love the lyrics of the song too.

Take Care,

Janet

 

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Hi Janet.  I wish I could say I wrote the lyrics!  The song made sense to me years ago from an instrumental standpoint, but now knowing the lyrics, and understanding baking, it takes the song to another level.

Happy baking.

John

golgi70's picture
golgi70

Hey John, 

Nice write up on how you got "here" John.  And many of us have seen your accelerated progress as a bread baker. I fortunately found baking the second I went to college for computers.  I started baking and it only got to be more of an obsession and working with computers (following in my dad's footsteps) became less and less interesting.  As a fellow fiddler (I'm no musician) I suggest you pick up your axe and get back to playing as like you said, its' of the best feelings, like that of succesful baking. 

Here's my cheesy lyrics to a song I wrote (seems every song I write is about bread or baking)

I had a second section of lyrics but they have been forgotten.  These I know and can fiddle along too.  My main instrument is the bass but I dabble with guitar which I can sing along with.  I cannot sing and play bass, just won't work

Sacred Grain. 

Starts with the sacred grain

Then we have to dance and pray for rain

Might take 1,2, maybe 7 days

A bubble comes through and we're on our way

this is the heartbeat of the table yeah...

 

Happy you found bread and Happy Baking,  

Now go play some music while your dough rests

 

Josh

 

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Hey Josh.  Thanks for your comments.  Sounds like you know where I am coming from with the family business legacy.  I feel fortunate and cursed at the same time.  Let's just say, after an 18 hour work day, I am cursed and when I happen to have a few extra contracts come my way, I feel fortunate.

Thanks for sharing your musical experience as well.

Take care and happy baking to you.

John

isand66's picture
isand66

Thanks Jhon for sharing your story.  I envy your musical ability since I always wished I wasn't tone deaf.  I do enjoy my job as it does allow me some creative outlets and I enjoy baking, photography and gardening for the chance to tap into my creative urges as well.  Who knows maybe you can figure out a way to bring some of your musical and baking/cooking juices into expanding your family business.

P.S.  Deep Purple is one of my favorite bands and the best concert I ever saw was the Perfect Strangers tour.  We had seats on the side of the stage about 10 Rows in.  Couldn't hear for a week but it was worth the hearing loss!

Regards

Ian

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Hey Ian.  Unfortunately, music and a painting business don't go hand in hand.  I wish!

I envy you for actually getting to a Deep Purple concert.  Jon Lord was definitely one of my major influences for organ playing.  I even chopped up one of my Hammond organs to patch in a distortion pedal to emulate that distorted sound he gets.

John

davidg618's picture
davidg618

There are two old homilies:

"If I had two loaves of bread I'd sell one and buy flowers for my soul".

and "Teach a man to fish, and he has food for life."

I say, "Teach a man to bake bread, and his soul doesn't need flowers". He can keep both loaves. (And he can make fish sandwiches.:)

David G

 

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

David.  Very nicely put.  This website and its members have helped teach me to bake bread and I am already richer for it.  I think I will make a fish sandwich soon :)

John

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Bread baking fills so many personal needs. FYI, there have been several topics over the years on why people bake. We have a lot in common, yet each person's route to get here is unique.

A thought about "Plan A" and "joining the family business:" In a way, I joined the family business too. My dad was a physician, and, although I was in no way pressured to go to medical school, it was sort of the default choice. However, my intellectual interest is the study of human behavior, individual and group. That has always interested me the most. Too make a long story short, I found a niche in medicine that allowed me to follow my own interests, even though it is rather unusual. In fact, when I began looking for it, the sub-specialty in which I eventually became officially certified really did not exist in any organized manner.

What's the "message?" Well, maybe medicine has a broader scope of concerns than most occupations, but I wonder if your painting contracting business (about which I know zip) has opportunities for a creative guy to do some exceptional stuff. Ask your boss.  ... Oh! YOU are your boss! Hmmm .....

Oh yeah. Bread baking. For me, it's about craft (doing something creative and of high quality with my hands), science, animal pleasure in consuming what I bake, and nurturance of myself and others. There is also a bit of the performer's thrill of having an appreciative "audience." There is also the very sneaky power of intermittant reinforcement. That is, you try something, and it fails and fails and fails. Then it suceeds, and you get a terrific thrill. It turns out that this pattern of intermittant, irregular rewards is more powerfully motivating than consistant success.  Sound familiar?

Happy baking!

David

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Hi David and thank you for sharing your experience.  I agree.  I think most of us share the same reasons of why we bake bread, just with different paths that got us here.  Like you, I get the same satisfaction from baking bread.  Other than being a hobby that can shut my mind off for a while from work, it is a great way to feel like I am creating something and then sharing with loved ones, and hopefully receiving the 'standing ovation.'  I had no idea how much I still needed those feelings until I started to bake my first few loaves.

As mentioned, creativity is not something that I can really use towards the painting business.  Maybe a little when helping develop our website (which is really unecessary as we do not advertise).  Other than that, there is very little that I could use my creative brush on.  At least not to any level that would give me the satisfaction that music or bread baking has ever given.  Maybe changing the colour of the carpet in my office. :)

Hope you bake some breads this weekend to share with your loved ones.

Take care.

John

annie the chef's picture
annie the chef

Since works always follow us home these day, it is great just to take your mind off works by baking bread.

Nice lyrics.

Annie

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Tell me about it Annie.  The process really allows me to shut my mind down from work and concentrate on the dough.

Take care,

John

annie the chef's picture
annie the chef

All your breads looked perfect in your other posts.  I liked your idea of using a roasting pan with a can of hot water.

Thank you for sharing.

Cheers

Annie

Ruralidle's picture
Ruralidle

Thanks John

It is great to hear your story.  You really seem to have a talent for baking bread and I can only hope that your painting business is as succesful as your baking. We know what it is like to run a small business, we have run one since 1989 and - certainly in the early years - free time was virtually non-existent.

Thanks also for the link, I really liked the Song of the Baker.

Happy Baking

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Hey, glad to hear you enjoyed the tune.  And thank you for your comments.  Don't work too hard and happy baking.

John

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Very Interesting story, John! Like you, i winded up working with my father in a money exchange business (Not family business) as a manager, but never had a fullfilling career. The creative part of me was always itching me too. Throughout the years, i have jumped from a hobby to the other without really devoting to one. Bread, however, has been a source of sustenance to me and the family, so i could not jump over this one. Now, it is too late, i'm hooked.

Now, i plan to change my career as did Phil. Not an easy decision to make. 11 years in an unfullfilling job is too much for me.

I'm glad you found a passion that takes your mind off things, and relaxes you.

Thanks for sharing your story with us, John.

Wishing you all the best,

-Khalid

isand66's picture
isand66

Look forward to hearing about your career change.  I hope it brings you happiness and provides an outlet for your creative juices to flow.

Regards,

Ian

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Thanks, Ian.

I'm working on a few options, and as soon as i find a clear pathway to a new career, i'll share it with TFL.

Best regards,

-Khalid

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Hi Khalid and thank you for your comments.  I am sorry to hear that you had the experience you had in your line of work.  I don't like to hear those kinds of stories as I know very well the toll it can take on one's well being.  I hope you find more rewards in your new career move. 

I guess I did paint (sorry for the pun) a pretty grim picture of my career.  As difficult and challenging as it is at most times, there are some lights that shine through once in a while.  I am proud to have been given this opportunity.  Just wish it required a bit more of my true personality and strengths.

Take care and please do keep us posted on your new endeavors.

John

 

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Sure, perhaps when things become more certain, i'll share my career endeavours with you guys.

-Khalid

annie the chef's picture
annie the chef

Hi John.  Your story got me thinking a lot.  Although my son is just starting school this year, I really hope that whatever he wish to do in the future, it will suit his strength and personality.  I have seen so many people I used to work with were struggling with their jobs.

As for myself, I just had a career change to be a mother.  I used to work as a chef in the very fast pace environment.  Everyday at work is long and stressful but that what I'm good at and like to do. My day as a mother now is longer (to 24/7) and I still get to do what I like, which is cooking and baking good bread. I just get paid with love, not money, and it is a very fulfilling "career".

Great story, John.

Annie

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Well, I am glad to hear that my story gave you some food for thought.  Maybe I should look at getting an oven at my office...then I will never get anything done...except baking bread that is :)

Take care.

John

isand66's picture
isand66

Ha...I work from home now so I do have an oven in my office....it's nice to be able to bake in between working, but sometimes it gets hairy when I get involved in a phone call with bread in the oven or proofer :).

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

I an, I have been in a few situations where I have had to make a decision to keep cooking, or keep talking business on the cell and write things down.  A few over sauteed onions and garlic over the last few years.  We just can't win can we?

Better to redo onions than dough that's for sure.

John

annie the chef's picture
annie the chef

John

You too take care of yourself and don't work too hard.

Look forward to reading your new post.

Happy baking as always!

Annie