Recently I moved to a loft apartment in a commercial building that has been zoned for use by artists. My new place has more space and an unexpected amenity: bakeries on 3 sides of the building. A bagel factory on one side. Behind me is the Dunkin Donuts facility where all of the donuts for NYC shops are made. And outside my bedroom window: Tom Cat Bakery, a huge complex that extends an entire block. Tom Cat makes custom breads for restaurants around the city.
My first night here, at 3am I was awakened by the aroma of freshly baked bread. At once I began to salivate. My subconscious brain assumed a warm loaf was coming our way. Past is prologue, right? Smell delicious food, ergo eat delicious food. I thought I must be dreaming, except I could hear the sounds of rustling paper and a running motor. I looked out the window to find men in hair nets and blue coveralls loading trucks with large carts full of baguettes and smaller bags of various shapes. I imagined what was in those. Dinner rolls? Focaccia? Sour dough? Pumpernickel? Sandwich buns? Or maybe the main event: croissants. The saliva crested in the corners of my lips in anticipation the choice of any kind of bread I wanted.
Then, the frontal lobe kicked into gear. This was madness. “You don’t eat bread at 3am” the inner voice of reason told me. Hypoglycemia is only reason I wake up at 3am and start eating carbs. Until now. All day and night the sweet aroma tricks my sense of smell while I work from home. As my thwarted appetite built up to an uncomfortable level, so did the craving reach my grumbling stomach. If I could have a little bread, maybe the distraction would go away.
The time to take an irrationally exuberant action had come. I got their number online and called Tom Cat to find out if they had an outlet store on site. The receptionist transferred me to the person who apparently takes calls from crazies like me. I explained my predicament; “I am your new next door neighbor. You guys are killing me with the smell of your bread. I would like to be come your next customer. Can you hook me up?” The proprietor explained that all of their product is destined for one of two places: either to a client or given away to City Harvest to feed the homeless.
3 weeks into my new home, the craving for bread lingers every waking hour in the back of my mind. I am hoping that my primitive brain will eventually unlearn its salivation response and I won’t even notice the smell. But for now, the good people of Pepperidge Farm have a new customer. I just have to run a gauntlet of Dunkin’s chocolate, vanilla custard, apple cinnamon filing or maple glaze on my way to the way to grocery store and back.
Claire Johnson, “Maple Frosted” Oil on Maple. (2008)