Saturday, October 07, 2006

Saturday morning. breakfast. (Columbia City Bakery).

When I was quite small my baby-sitter would take me berry-picking during blackberry season, in the dog days of August. The back alleys of our neighborhood were filled with the wild fountains of prickly vines. R. and I took buckets and bowls and spent hours teasing ripe berries from their stems; the ripest ones would fall gently into our hands at the merest touch. Once she made a pie, black and oozing purple juice, but usually I would just eat them out of hand, or with ice cream. It's been years since I went hunting for blackberries. The wild vines at the edge of our backyard have been replaced with a forest of bamboo. I've moved away from my childhood home. But today I'm back for just a little while.

K. and I walk to to the Columbia City bakery for breakfast. Down our street, past the school nestled at the curve of the steep hill that takes us towards the now-bustling Columbia City neighborhood. Across the street from the school we find a tangle of blackberries. Even in October there are still berries lingering, ripe and sweet and juicy, and we pause to pick a few. As I eat the blackberries I am transported back into my childhood again. That moment passes, and then we walk on, eager for breakfast.

It's busy inside the bakery. There are families with babies everywhere you look. The eating area is full of light and pale wood; the glassed-in counter is piled with all manner of baked goods. Beyond the counter you can see the kitchen, with people moving around between tables of dough and ovens and whatever equipment they use to create magic. K. buys loaves of bread, one white country loaf, the other dark bread studded with walnuts. There are flaky strudels, one with berries, another filled with almond-scented cream and slices of pear. A handful of chocolate madeleines frosted with cocoa nibs goes into a paper bag for later. For breakfast I have a savory croissant, and hot chocolate.

Tables at the bakery are few and hard to come by on weekend mornings. I'm lucky to sneak over and snag one while K. pays for our bounty. Behind me is a case filled with trays of cupcakes and pumpkin tarts and slices of a deadly-looking chocolate cake. And then I'm sitting down and biting into the buttery flakiness of a croissant filled with a curl of ham and a sprinkling of cheese, and I am completely happy. The hot chocolate arrives, a heavy white cup and saucer, a swirling leaf drawn in its cap of foam, rich and creamy and chocolatey. K. rips into the bread, handing over pieces for me to try - the darkly nutty walnut bread, the pure taste of the thick-crusted plain loaf. I see E., an old high-school classmate that I have not seen in eight years. YOU! She points in my direction. I've met you before! I can tell she can't remember my name, though.

Sated and happy we head towards home. I pass E. and her friends on the street. I couldn't remember your name earlier but I know it now, she says. My past is everywhere today.

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