The hardest worker at the Todd Mahal Bakery is Gladys. Gladys is our Blodgett oven. She warms up early each morning and, during the season, stays on most of the day. Nestled in the back of the oven room behind the reclaimed pocket doors found in the weeds up behind the Old Elkland School Gym, she quietly does her good works and pops out baked goodie after baked goodie. People marvel at the good smells that vent out on the street and up the stairs. Cinnamon buns, biscuits, scones, croissants and muffins in the morning; cookies, brownies, biscotti and magic cookie bars in the afternoon. Every Saturdays, she heats up high and bakes crusty on the outside, soft on the inside, sour dough bread—the bread specialty of the house.
I bought Gladys from a baker acquaintance of mine, Joe who owns Annie’s Bakery in Sylva, NC. She was in his garage bakery and when his business grew and he bought fancy new steaming hot ovens that baked many, many loaves of bread at a time and moved his bakery to downtown Sylva, Gladys and her fellow Blodgett ovens in the garage moved on to other micro bakeries like the Todd Mahal. Joe told me he saved Galdys just for me.
I fell in love with Gladys the first time I saw her. Distinguished from the start. My brother-in-law and Joe loaded her up in the truck-no small feat as she weighs 2,000 pounds-and a whole group of people off loaded her up the steps—again, no small task—and into the planned oven room space some 10 years ago now. Once she was stable and level sitting on the specially built garage-strength floor, the oven room walls went up around her. The walls are double-sided sheet rock all around as well as the ceiling and provide a fire safe, heat absorbing quiet place for Gladys to do her work.
She doesn’t like to be disturbed and rarely peaks out. The first words out of my now good friend, Beth Ann Jones, mouth when she saw Gladys were “wow, look at that stove!” Gladys was affronted and I quickly corrected Beth Ann, saying “Gladys is not a stove, she is an oven!” Beth Ann laughed and quickly apologized and I knew then—even before I knew Beth Ann was from Fort Pierce—that we would be friends for life.
I am reminded each day when I start Gladys up of the wonderful line of bakers and cooks that came before me in my family and who I hope someday to emulate. Among them, was my Great Aunt Gladys who would come to the family reunions loaded down with mouth watering food (the food adventures of the family reunion are best left for a future blog post). Baked beans, fried chicken, potato salad and blueberry, apple or plum küchen. (Nobody could compete with Gladys’ küchen. Gosh, my mouth waters just thinking about it.) Great Aunt Gladys was a no nonsense kind of woman, not much warm and fuzzy, but kind, in that Northern Minnesota pioneer spirit way. Hard working. She retired to Fort Pierce, FL and years later, when my parents first vacationed there, Gladys, took them in and showed them around. Gladys made my folks fall in love with Fort Pierce, the beach, and the climate, the warmth of old time Florida. Of which I am so thankful, as I too fell in love with Fort Pierce and moved there myself from the frigid climes of the growing-up years in Northern Minnesota for the middle years of life. Now at the Todd Mahal Bakery in beautiful downtown Todd, NC, Great Aunt Gladys is still a part of memories—both of Northern Minnesota family reunions and Florida sunshine—in the form of a Blodgett oven. She would be proud.