Tucked under the train shed among the vendors at the Mill City Farmers Market was an L-shaped table topped with dozens of loaves of bread.
Farmers market regulars and bread lovers alike were able to sample the loaves and go home with recipes at the Mill City Farmers Market Bread Festival on Sat., Sept. 14.
Darrold and Marty Glanville, owners of Sunrise Flour Mill and longtime vendors at the farmers market, started the festival about four years ago as a competition.
“We realized that people got a little intimidated by [a contest],” said Heather Meyer, who has helped facilitate the festival for a few years. “Then we opened it up. Let's have everybody come bring their bread, their stories and have this collaborative moment.”
It has since turned into a showcase with demonstrations from bakers in the area.
Each loaf of bread in the showcase was accompanied by a sheet of paper that had the type of bread on it and its origin story. Some participants wrote of family traditions, a first attempt at making bread while away for college or trips abroad.
Addie Merians, a Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota, brought her mom’s chocolate chip challah from New York to the table.
“When I moved out for college [in Virginia], I had to start making my own challah,” Merians said. “If I want a good challah I had to learn to how to get what I wanted, and it was a lot of do-it-yourself.”
The festival was focused more on histories and techniques and not with who the best baker in town is.
“It's sort of a passing down of generations of stories, which is really what we try to collect,” Meyer said. “Because that's what food is about.”
Preserving that aspect of baking was a motivator for a lot of the people at the festival, but many of them also just bake purely for fun.
Mari Gades, another University Ph.D. student, brought a fresh herb fougasse inspired by a recipe she saw on "The Great British Baking Show."
"They did an episode on this long ago,” she said. “Ever since then, it's been on my mind and I finally decided to give it a try.”
Some of the breads were first attempts and others were tried-and-true recipes. Regardless of the bread’s origin, it likely started off with three simple ingredients — flour, water and salt.
“A lot of people are going gluten-free because [store-bought] bread has gotten to be really crappy,” Meyer said. “We're trying to make bread the way it used to be with maybe four ingredients, not 12 ingredients.”
Naturally, this facilitates the conversation around sharing freshly-baked bread. Showcasing and talking about it makes the experience more memorable, instead of running to the grocery store and grabbing a loaf that might have sat there for a few days.
“The thing I find special is the hospitality,” Merians said. “It's fun to share food and recipes with people.”
Whether you share your bread with others or save it for yourself, there is a simple joy in creating it from scratch.
“There's something really lovely about bread in that it never goes as planned,” Gades said. “It’s always a fun baking adventure.”