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Be Careful What You Wish For

Long before we bought the bakery--I'm talking literal decades--I would often jokingly tell my co-workers that what I REALLY wanted to do when I grew up was to move to a small town (Turtleford, Saskatchewan, specifically) and get a job baking bread at the local Coop food store. How stressful could that be? "I'm sorry, sir, but we are out of multigrain. Could I interest you in a loaf of whole wheat instead?"

Never let anyone tell you that Manifestation is a farce!

Fast forward to when we bought the bakery in April of 2020. I had an idealized version of what that would look like.

I pictured us strolling in at our leisure, chatting and sharing laughs with our regulars. Perhaps making the odd latte or ringing in a customer here and there. But mostly, I saw us socializing and living the laid-back Pender lifestyle. I would wear long, cozy cardigans and tunics, have a multitude of knee-high boots, and be as West Coast casual as possible. I'd carry a laptop in a soft leather bag, and type very important things into it on a regular basis. Perhaps I would blog? Haha! For some odd reason, I pictured Scott in a blazer with leather patches on the elbows. Perhaps holding a pipe--not to smoke, just for effect. The whole Hallmark movie theme. You get the idea.

I could not have been more wrong.

As the ink was drying on the deal, we learned that the vast majority of our kitchen team was moving off-island--within a fortnight. Yes, I just used the word fortnight. While we still had a pastry chef, the rest of the kitchen duties now fell upon the only able-bodied person available. As Scott was in dire need of a hip replacement, kitchen duties fell on me. The cozy sweaters and knee-high boots of my dreams were to be replaced by bleach-spattered aprons and shoes with sensible arch support. And as for Scott, well, instead of his prestigious blazer and whimsical pipe, he was rocking Saskatchewan Roughrider shorts, and when the hip pain got really bad, was using a walker.

Now, don't get me wrong. I know my way around a kitchen. My mom made sure I was taught the essentials of cooking and baking for a family of 4, and I can still remember the lessons Mrs. Formanek drilled into us in Junior High Home Economics class. But that didn't prepare me for the summer of 2020 where my typical day was as follows: Making muffins, making breakfast wraps, making sandwiches, then roasting beef and chicken, cooking off trays of bacon, hand washing (that's right--there was no dishwasher back then) endless dishes, making scones, making turnovers, making soup, pickling onions, roasting tofu slices, and slicing cheese and meats, etc, 7 grueling days a week. All of the lessons my mom taught me and Grade 7 Home Ec did NOT prepare me for that! Coming from a career that was a desk job, that first summer made me physically ache. My dogs were barking! Did I neglect to mention we were living on our boat at this time? Hardly the height of luxury. Anyone who has ever showered and shampooed in a motor home knows what I'm talking about. I yearned for a long, hot shower and a place to put up my feet up. Scott's hip was getting worse with each passing day, and standing in front of a til all day wasn't helping the situation. We questioned our choices. Often.

As the summer progressed, our team was slowly rebuilt, and the future began to look much brighter. We focused on "work smarter, not harder" and implemented so many improvements to make the lives of everyone at the bakery more efficient and enjoyable. A commercial dishwasher, air conditioning in the kitchen, and acrylic cases to keep products fresh and clean. Little things like replacing the old and worn wooden work table in the kitchen with a stainless steel one at a more ergonomically correct height, raising the dish pit for the same reason, and optimizing our wifi and point-of-sale terminals to stay more functional during power outages just to name a few.

And now today, as we approach our third year here, things really could not be better. Yes, I'm still in the kitchen, but I've paid my dues and have grown to like it there. I do manage to rear my ugly head and pop out to the front to greet the masses every now and then. And I have on occasion had the chance to live out my dream and say "I'm sorry, sir, but we are out of Alpine multigrain. Would you be interested in Italian whole grain instead?"

Be careful what you wish for--you just might get it! I am quite literally living out my dream right here on Pender. And I couldn't be happier.

What does 2023 have in store? Stick around and find out!

Life is short--good things come to those who wait at VL Bakery!

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