Teens can be difficult to entertain, and because of the burden of cool* they won’t easily let you know if your attempts have been successful. The kids were already glum because their significant others had to work all weekend. Add to that an early-morning venture in July, when it’s already 80 degrees and drenchingly humid, and...you get the idea.
You have to look for subtle signs.
It’s 10 a.m., the first Saturday of the month, on the near-east side of St. Paul, MN. The event is St. Agnes Baking Company’s monthly retail sale. Being good St. Paulites, we’re all lined up along the west side of the baking company, not a particularly quiet crowd, but orderly and a half an hour early. We know that once the doors open, the non-standard bread, pastry and cookies disappear quickly from the tables and racks lined up throughout the kitchen. It’s master baker Danny Klecko’s 50th birthday, and the event starts with a quick story of his birth (Who would have thought that kid would actually grow up?), and a round of the birthday song from the customers.
The kids join in on the song; I take this as another subtle sign. The fact that they’d agreed to come out last night, and gotten themselves up and ready this morning was the first.
The kids crack a smile as Klecko goes through his spiel through the small end of a bullhorn, kneading stories of being Catholic, Polish and a St. Paul-ite with highlights of the day’s offerings: Lemon Cream Whoopie Pies, Rusty Nail Biscotti, Maple Bacon Monkey Bread, Sweet Potato Tartlets, and an Egg, Cheese, and Chive Wagon Wheel that’s truly bigger than the steering wheel on Chevy truck.
The doors open, we file in, and go after our favored delicacies. My son makes a beeline for the Wagon Wheel, slithering in between a couple debating the merits of the Smoked Salmon Dill Cheese Crowns versus a pastry filled with strawberries and Boston cream, with a smattering of jalapenos, and grabs the monkey bread. I follow my son, avoiding the debate, and grab both the pastry and the crown. My daughter reappears with a strawberry rhubarb pie and an apple crisp. Too late to purchase the Rusty Nail biscotti, I taste a small piece from a sample basket. The kids line up for a piece of Klecko’s chocolate birthday cake and I grab a loaf of my favorite, Polish Bride, to be sliced and re-bagged.
Back to the entrance, we look over our treasures, realizing that we chose more than we can possibly eat alone in one sitting. My daughter suggests we invite a bunch of people over for a bakery party. And while I doubt this will actually happen, it’s good to see that a mere half hour in an east side bakery has turned my teens’ day around.
Liz Husebye Hartmann
*creds go to Reynold Philipsek for this apt description