Last week was marvelous. I managed to visit all my favorite bakeries in Scotland. Each one serving up culinary gems, sorely missed, in this, the USA, where everyone thinks they can bake, but sadly, they can’t! I believe it’s part of the American way of life, where everyone just accepts crap, thinking it’s marvelous, and it’s not until you travel to other parts of the globe that you realize how bad the baking actually is here in America. Take Hong Kong for example. There are so many cake shops in HK that it seems every street corner, every underground station strip mall, has a shop filled and brimming with delightful and imaginative deserts, all sending out that invisible signal by cake radar, COME AND EAT ME. But, just like here, in the US, when you finally cave in and walk through a door into a store which smells absolutely delicious, scout out all those cakes that don’t pass the ‘you look the most fanciful’ test, and finally settle on something bright, colorful, large and appealing, they all taste like crap, and they all taste the same. It’s sad but true. Maxim’s in HK, famous for it’s window displays, tempting, tantalizing and very mouth-watering, have the worst tasting cakes in the city. They all taste like cardboard, and yes, before you ask, I have tasted cardboard, but that’s another story for another time. I just don’t understand why everything they bake has this ‘plastic’ and ‘mass produced’ feel? The cakes look individual enough, until that first bite, when you realize instantly, it might have been a better idea to stick to the diet and not to punish one self with a sneaky treat that ends up tasting like a fiber one bar! How can their bakers get it sooooooooo wrong? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself for many years, and also one that applies not just to HK, but to other countries as well, including the USA.
In Scotland we have so many small bakeries dotted around each city, you are spoiled for choice. Each one serving up a mild heart attack inside a deliciously unhealthy treat that looks so darn tempting, it’s just impossible to walk past the store without popping in and buying one of just about everything. From fern cakes to pineapple tarts, to fly traps, (fruit slices), to cheese scones,( the UK kind, the proper kind, and not the American version which are just totally shite), you are taken into heaven and brought back through the pearly gates, saliva dripping from jaws that just need a wee feast and a wee nibble from each and every grandiose concoction. We, the Scots, the one’s who invented the modern world, are consumed by our ability to commit suicide, not only by chocolate, but by clotted cream, pastry, and suet! And often all at the same time in the same treat! No one, and I mean no one, can kill you as quick as a Scottish baker. Well, perhaps a Scottish fish and chip shop can, but that’s debatable. Our bakers have a knack of bringing you in, serving you up and making you addicted, before they can tie the defibrillator around your once perfectly health chest. We can poison the heart, the soul and the mind, just with our Empire biscuits, (a jam sandwich made with sugar cookies, and one of my very favorites). We can exterminate all thoughts of eating a balanced diet, just by asking you to take a bite from one of our famous Scottish meat pies, served up properly with gravy, beans and chips,(french fries), making it a deliciously unhealthy and certain one way ticket to a coronary! We are for sure, more dangerous with our bakeries than Al Qaeda are with their suicide bombers!
I am always astonished that in the US, when you walk into any supermarket all you find in the bakery aisles is massed produced crap. It all tastes the same, it all looks the same and it is all made to cater to a populous that obviously doesn’t care. There are of course many independent bakeries dotted around every town, some of which are good, and others, predictably bad. Even those which are good, some award winning, have a tendency to produce goods that are similar in taste. The variety is missing, just as it is in the chocolate that’s mass produced to cater to people who have no interest in seeing it improve. Bread in the UK is a staple, as it is here in the USA. In the UK, people come from miles around to shop at bakeries who make their bread fresh every morning. There are no chemicals, artificial preservatives or foreign objects in these loaves, just good old fashioned ingredients, made and baked with love. You can tell it’s real bread if it goes hard the next day, most mass produced breads stay good for weeks. Why do we all put up with this? I had an idea to open a fresh bread shop in my local town here in America. I gave it a lot of thought and put some feelers out to see if it would be a success. The general opinion came back stating quite clearly that people preferred to eat the crap rather than the good stuff. Mind blowing! Anyway, after writing all of this, I need to bugger off and feast on some more of the cake I brought back with me from Glasgow. No point in expecting to live past 60. Might as well just enjoy myself and die happy!!