Bakeries I miss

I found myself feeling peckish after waking up from my hour-long nap on a sofa in a mall (yes, I was that tired), and didn’t know what to get, having already had fast food twice that day.

It was then I recalled that I was in Metrotown, and there was a Maxim’s bakery on the floor below me. Maxim’s, a bakery chain in Hong Kong that I rarely visit because there are so many other, better-valued bakeries all over the city, and also the only Hong Kong-style bakery I knew of within the vicinity of my napping-place on Friday afternoon.

Hong Kong bakeries: what I miss most from the place I spent my childhood and adolescence in.

As I picked up a tray and a pair of tongs by the entrance, I remembered how much I loved doing the same ever since I was little. Eyeing the trays of buns and pastries in their individual cases, reading their English and Chinese names on the displayed cards, lifting the clear lids of the baked goods I’d chosen, and piling delicious morsels on my tray: two egg tarts, a pineapple bun (that has nothing to do with pineapple in terms of flavour), a sausage bun (or wiener bun, as it’s called here), and three pieces of garlic toast—all for $4.20.

The garlic toast might sound like a strange selection, since it’s not hard to make that at home. But there is something unique about the garlic rolls and toast that are sold in Hong Kong bakeries I’ve never found duplicated anywhere else, and it’s one of my favourite kinds of breads. This summer, when I was home, I went to the nearest open-space marketplace and made a mental map of all the bakeries in the area: which sold garlic toast, which sold what kind of egg tarts, and for what prices. Egg tarts and garlic toast. These are my measuring sticks.

And it is something of sheer loveliness to be able to catch the shuttle bus down to the marketplace in the morning to buy freshly baked breads, as many as I want. Even if I didn’t do it most of the time, it was the possibility of being able to do this that gave me the greatest pleasure.

I often didn’t do this—didn’t need to go down in the mornings unless I felt like walking around early—because I didn’t need to. Not when there are at least one, if not two, bakeries at every train station. On any street that conducts any kind of business, you will invariably pass by yet another bakery tucked away on one side of you. I miss this.

Of course there are other bakeries here too; Cobs and Terra Breads are among the first that come to mind. But they are not the same, and sometimes it is the familiar you yearn for the most. Not that I am still unused to the breads sold in Vancouver bakeries; indeed, I’m probably more bored than anything else, sometimes, and find myself craving something just a little bit different, just a little bit similar to what I’ve never stopped loving.

Sometimes I think I should go on a quest for all the HK-style bakeries I’ve heard or read of in Vancouver, and learn where they are. But this always gets left behind in the flurry of studies, working, volunteering and general daily business of living; I don’t often have time to go out of my way to search for the answers to longings I can usually manage by ignoring.

Tell me, is there something you miss from the past that you try to bring into your life now in some new way? How do you do this?

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