Local author, publisher, teacher, and clandestine restaurateur Andrew Barton is a busy guy, so when COVID lockdowns forced him into a relatively static homelife, he endeavored to earn himself yet another descriptive title: bread baker. He’d actually started baking a few years prior for Secret Restaurant, the aforementioned clandestine operation that he runs as a pop-up with a few friends, but lockdown gave him the endless hours required to really interrogate the thing, to get precise with his measurements, to experiment with ratios, and to reflect on what it means to stir together flour and water and yeast and salt and then watch as something as foundational as bread formed and emerged from the oven as if by alchemy.
That reflection led Barton to pen The Long Loaf: Bread for All Days, recently published in a handsome volume by Andrew’s own Two Plum Press. Andrew describes it as “a handbook for loose, intuitive, naturally leavened bread baking peppered with ponderings, ruminations, and romantic notions on the baking and consuming of bread as something one can and should do in our troubled world.” We’re enthusiastically in favor of romantic paens to the joys of eating, and reading Andrew’s book we’re reminded of another of Portland’s great foodie sensualists, the late cook and writer Robert Reynolds, who’s deft prose and instinctive cooking schooled a generation of our city’s best chefs on the intoxicating nature of market stalls piled high with fresh vegetables waiting to be turned into that evening’s meal.
Andrew will be joining us in the shop on Thursday September 22nd to talk all things bread, baking, and book writing, and will even bring a few of his long loaves to share. He’ll have copies of The Long Loaf for sale, along with his first cookbook, an homage to regional Oregon cookery called The Myrtlewood Cookbook. And Andrew’s dear friends, Jenny and Jim from Fossil + Fawn Winery, will be on hand pouring wine and chatting with Andrew about their own journey into yeast-assisted sublimity. We’ll leave you with a tantalizing excerpt from The Long Loaf, an ode to the possibilities of Not Toast:
“My friend Adam and I were heading to Sauvie Island to cook a meal outside, at our spot near the pioneer apple orchard. It was October, a week or two before Halloween, and the pumpkin patch traffic was absurd. Our plan was to get vegetables from the U-pick farm up the road and improvise, but we’d brought a few things to anchor the meal around.
We sat in the nearly completely stopped traffic for half an hour, then 45 minutes, then an hour. It was already lunch time – late lunch time – and there was no way we’d get materials and cook before getting deliriously hungry, so I opened the bag of provisions.
Two slices of my House Loaf. A jar half-full of aioli I’d made the night before, for dinner at home. A slim tin of olive-oil-packed anchovies. Another half jar with just a few spoonfuls of salsa verde. I pulled a metal bowl from the backseat as a lap work-surface, then spread the untoasted bread loosely with the aioli, blotted each with green sauce, and lay the anchovies flat.
We ate the not toast toasts in the golden October sunshine, in the car, going five mph, listening to jazz radio and talking about Ideas in a too-lofty way, brought back down to earth by the experience of eating while hungry.”