Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Muffins Monks Make

In about 1980, a few years after I had opened “Richard’s Bakery" in Tualatin, Oregon, someone opened a new bakery, a little muffin shop, in a town nearby, which was easy driving distance from my store. Of course, I wasn’t fond of any new competition, but also, I have always felt that we retail bakers need to support each other, so I planned on stopping by, to introduce myself, and to let them know that, if they ever needed a pound of yeast at 3 a.m., or some chocolate chips, whatever, to come on over.

A few days after they opened, there was quite a spread in the local paper, all about the new little muffin shop, and as I read the article, I began to fume. The article was all nice and informative, and I read with great interest. Then, in the part where the baker/owner tells his story, outlines his experience, that’s where I freaked.

Now, I am all in favor of marketing, and I understand the power of the media, and the value of say, having something interesting to relate about one’s past, some engaging factoid, to help your business, get a few tongues wagging. Like say, if a person has achieved a bit of local success as say, a professional athlete, and then goes into the restaurant business, you play off that, you use every opportunity you can to remind the media and your clientele that you once sank the winning free throw when you won the championship, that kinda thing. It’s perfectly fair and smart.

But this muffin guy, he made shit up, and it pissed me off. It sounded like it could be true, and I was certain that 99.9% of readers would believe his story, as he told it. It was the story of how he had lived with monks for a period of time, and finally, after many years of hard work and toil, and pleading, he was given the monks' secret recipe for muffins, muffins that were so good, well, that monks made them. The muffins monks make, that’s what he was going to bake at his shop. Using the secret recipe.

What a bunch of BS. But I shined it on, and though I never did go over to meet this joker, I thought, well, that’s business for ya’, nothing I can do about it, except, I am jus’ gonna have to work harder than this guy, be sure my bakery is better.

I drove by the muffin shop quite frequently in my travels, there in Lake Grove, Oregon, on my way to pick up ingredients, making a delivery, something. Whenever I drove by, it seemed busy, and I admit, at times, it ate my heart out to see those cars there, and I wondered if the customers inside were sitting at their tables, and relishing every last angelic morsel of the muffins monks make, since they had eaten up that crap about the secret recipe.

I kept my mouth shut, but continued to work my ass off, you know, to be sure my cases were loaded with good things to eat, every morning, at 7a.m., rain or shine, at Richard’s Bakery, muffins included, nice big fresh blueberry muffins, double chocloate fudge chip, gorgeous bran muffins, maybe something really interesting, like a Canadian Bacon and Extra Sharp Tillamook muffin.

About a year later, I decided to finally stop at the muffin shop, check it out. It was afternoon, about 1p.m., and as I got out of my car, it looked a bit deserted in the muffin shop. I approached the cases. There was a plate in the case, with a couple of chocolate muffins, and another plate, with a dozen or so muffins on it, which were white, but I could see they had some kind of other ingredient, like raisins or something. “Excuse me,” I piped up to the clerk, “what kind of muffins are those?”

It turned out, and I swear this is the truth, that those muffins were vanilla batter muffins, and they had, are you ready for this?..... “red hots” folded into them. We are talking, in this guy’s shop, there were two chocolate muffins, and a tray full of vanilla muffins, with little red cinnamon “red hot” candies in them. OH YUM. I couldn’t help but wonder if the addition of red hots somehow especially complemented the monk's secret recipe. I envisioned myself attempting to eat one of them, biting down, and then having to begin crunching, with great gusto, through those little hot and hard candies. Or maybe what one would do is, collect the red hots in a corner of your mouth, as you eat the cakey part with the rest of your mouth. Or you could store'm between yer cheek and gum, like Skoal, and then suck'em after you finish the cake!

I admit, I wasn’t all that shocked or bummed when the muffin shop, though they had an exclusive on the monk’s “secret recipe”, went out of business shortly thereafter.

Last week, I saw an Oprah show, and it was about Krispy Kreme. At the beginning of the show, they had given Oprah a fresh glazed doughnut, and she was fondling it and swooning over it, pressing it to her face, etc., and even looked sexually aroused, slightly moaning and such. It was funny, but then, when they interviewed the Krispy Kreme people, they made a huge deal out of their secret recipe. Once again, folks, it’s bullshit. If you make a nice raised doughnut dough, by using, perhaps, the “World’s Fair Raised Doughnut” recipe, available to any baker, and if you treat the dough right, and fry it right, and glaze it right, it is gonna be great. It might even be better than Krispee Kreme, and it almost certainly will be better than the muffins monks make. Thanks for listenin’. I’ve been wantin’ t’blow the lid off this scam for years.

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