In Featherston, a small town at the base of the Remutaka hills and marking the entrance to the province where I live, there is a baker who has elevated the art of making bread, pies and pastries to a level which can only be described as sublime.
His unassuming bakery is tucked away behind the town’s pharmacy – the shopfront plain – the sign says ‘Baker’ – the retail space just big enough for three or four at a pinch customers at a time.
Three shelves hold six baskets refilled with varieties of loaves fresh from the ovens throughout the morning. Pick one up – feel the rough sharpness of the crust against your fingers, tap it and hear the hollow knock of a perfectly baked loaf. Bundle it into the thick brown paper bag and fold it over to seal in the goodness.
Dark heavy rye-breads, yeasty sourdough, tough skinny baguettes and my go-to, down-right all time favourite – the rye and caraway pictured above. A small cabinet displays mini- quiches and filled baguettes, the pie warmer freshly baked kumara and venison, beef and blue cheese or if you fancy vegetarian, lentil and mushroom pies encased with crisp cooked through pastry.
Tempting croissants, Danishes, light as air brioche, and my favourite the brunsvigers line up in quantities of fours and fives under the counter. Brunsvigers, a recent addition to the offerings, originated in Denmark and are made with a soft yeast dough (a cross between a crumpet and a donut) topped with butter and sugar then baked. There is no photo of the brunsvigers because I eat mine on the drive back to Martinborough. I could buy two and keep one to photograph when I get home but who am I kidding.
The Rye and Caraway is my at-home treat. Thick slabs of bread slathered in butter and eaten fresh. Then another one and then … Once I ate the whole loaf like this carving slice after slice. Twice I have eaten half the loaf in one sitting. Okay more than twice. It is the combination of the bread’s texture and its sour-sweet flavour which lasts on the tongue and in my mouth which I can’t get enough of.
I change how I eat. No longer fast and on the left side, I masticate slowly and purposefully. I chew thoughtfully, appreciating the intricacies of the bread firing taste buds from the front to the back of my mouth. I inhale the timeless combination of milled grain, seeds and yeast and I look out the window and watch the trees bending in the wind, I see the colours of the grass and I know somewhere behind the clouds is the sun.