These days in Tainan, there are only very few people who would invest their passion into studying and making artisan European sourdough bread, at the same time just to open a bakery instead of a more profitable cafe. This bakery is near my home, located in a little alleyway. The chef proposed her idea to her family of wanting to turn her garage into a bakery, then she had this “Chens Dailybaker“ settled.
This Fudong’s House bakery only operates for three to four days a week, which easily gives people an impression that this is a new way for the young to enjoy life. However this “house” is operated only by the chef herself, imagine the workload from creating and managing posts on social media, putting a list of fresh-from-oven schedules, participating in markets, taking orders from customers via different channels, plus the most important thing, the core of this business, is to make roughly 80 pieces of bread each day to sustain the sale with her both hands.
The differences between Taiwan, especially in the south, and Hong Kong on such an artisan bread appreciating culture is very much obvious. Traditional breakfast for Tainan people usually is fish porridge, for lunch could be sticky rice dumplings, or various savoury dishes served with rice, and dinner could be a mini hot pot, but sure that there are many coffee drinkers. On the contrary, I would have bread for breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner! From the perspective of food culture, to look at the way people spend their time in a day, Taiwanese people are more leisurely, which is no doubt. Anyhow In Tainan, I have never seen people munching bread or small pastry while walking on the street, where I love to have some small bites such as Cocktail Bun, Danish Finger or an Egg Tart after class, they are like a perfect snack before dinner while I am on my way home.
“Your bakery has only three seats.” After choosing the bread, I find a place to sit down.
“This is my home from childhood.” The chef as known as the boss, Shan Shan told me while slicing the bread.
The bakery is on the ground floor of an old building next to a traditional wet market, where it hides in an alleyway facing the main road. Many of her customers are elders riding by, who are curious at first about this little shop. Having been in business for almost a year, she was still alone, sweating between the oven and the bread, but she didn’t really think about why her shop could become a community bakery.
“Oh Really? Is my shop a community bakery?” After putting down the bread that she sliced for me, she went back to check her babies in the oven.
“Your shop transformed my impression of an ordinary bakery. You set up a ‘dine-in’ corner, and you suggested your customers to order in advance, so that your pieces of bread will not be sold out two hours after opening.” I could not think of a better word than “dine-in” in this case, then she smiled at me “Really?”
There was a time I held a market at home, I invited Shan Shan to sell her bread there. Every time I try to understand her business skills, I could not quite get her formula even though we have been friends. She had participated in a lot of markets, but none of them could last till the end because her bread sold out too quickly that she had nothing left to sell. I asked her if she wanted to go back and bake again in batches, but she always just smiles back “Oh ok ok.” In order to maintain and pursue freshness, she always wakes up at 5 in the morning to start baking regardless of the four seasons. It will even be earlier in Winter because the temperature and humidity will affect the fermentation speed.
There is no word I can find to explain the reasons for admiring and supporting the “Fudong’s House”, as I believe that action speaks louder. One thing on the other hand, which has a great impact on my perception and understanding on the use of time and space is that, her cheerful and carefree attitude towards selling out early within business hours, chatting with customers leisurely, and waiting patiently for customers to come for collecting and paying for the bread they ordered. (Yes surprising isn’t it? Customers need not pay when they place their order!)
Ah well, let me have a bite first. “It’s quite firm.” I couldn’t help but burst out to her.
“Hmm..firm, I also want a firmer life with more solidity, I don’t want to be a cotton candy that has no weight and connotation like a breeze.” So this makes me think, why not experience the leisure in life through my body to feel the passage of moments? Just take a bite of bread to break through our traditional mindset on what is time.
Like opening a dine-in bakery with only three seats, or not necessarily to be well recognized by the public, what you need are to put thoughts into practice and fully experience them in reality. “The satisfying way of living is to let our heart lead us to adventure!” I am muttering to myself again.