I live my life by the saying “If you don’t ask, you don’t get,” but this time I got so much more than I ever anticipated. Not the least, I got a shot of human concern and kindness in a month filled with Orlando, Brexit, and vicious bombings. Here’s the story – but keep reading: the good part is at the end.
I was in Maine for a vacation weekend and on the way back I made a special detour into Ogunquit to the Bread & Roses Bakery. When I was last in Ogunquit three years ago, I had a piece of their raspberry pie and I never ever forgot it. Despite the difficulty of finding parking, it would be worth having that taste in my mouth again, I believed.
It was late afternoon. The pie was on a display stand out in the open. There was an intact half pie and a couple of slices. I asked the kind woman at the cash register if the pie was fresh. She said it had been baked in the morning, when a few pieces had been sliced. Happily, she offered to cut me a slice from the middle of the intact half. She handed the pie to a man who was behind the pastry display where there was a work counter. He was large; his back blocked me from seeing what he was doing. Soon a different woman came from his work counter and handed me a closed box.
“Did you get the memo about cutting a piece from the middle of the half?” I asked her with a smile. She looked confused. The man loomed over her from behind. I could see a large knife on the counter. “It’s ok,” he growled. I had already paid. I was on vacation. I decided not to get into any confrontational thing with him.
At home I opened the box. The piece was awfully narrow. Had this man sliced off the edges of one of the cut pieces? I had gone to a lot of trouble to get this very particular pie at this very specific bakery. It didn’t seem right.
On Monday I called the bakery and got right through to the owner, Mary. She was horrified. She asked if she could put me on speakerphone so that her colleague could hear. She never challenged me, was never defensive, never denied. She was grateful, she said, for my taking the time because she was training new staff and not everyone immediately “gets it” about happy customers.
She insisted on taking my address. That was Monday afternoon. Today is Wednesday. I opened my door this afternoon and a large square cardboard box sat there. I opened the box and inside was a Styrofoam cold box. Inside that was an icepack swathed in bubble wrap sitting on top of a round piece of cardboard that covered a bubble-wrapped fresh raspberry pie.
Mary had included a beautiful handwritten card thanking me for taking the time to provide her with this teaching moment. And inviting me to come see her when I’m in Ogunquit. She included a postcard with the history of the Lawrence, MA, strike in 1912 of women and children textile workers in which they demanded Bread & Roses – a strike I celebrate every year. Bread & Roses was also the name of the first coalition feminist group in Boston around 1970 to which my collective belonged. The slogan on Mary’s card is “We believe in doing well by doing good.”
I have cut up the pie and frozen many, many pieces, and will treat myself once or twice a week to this amazing pastry. I’ve already pigged out on today’s portion without restraint.
The owner of Ogunquit’s Bread & Roses Bakery has treated me with extraordinary generosity and has shown great principle. The striking women of Lawrence would be proud of her. Go there. Tell Mary I sent you. The food is fabulous and I bet that by now she’s turned that big guy into a pussycat.