There I was with my roast beef baguette sandwich, made with my mom’s best meat. I headed to DUMBO, Brooklyn to watch the cars pass along and listen to some good music. Someone was always sitting on a bench, jammin’ on a guitar at that park. The music always made the food taste better, and still does to this day.
Stepping foot into that park, I truly felt freedom. The song playing in the distance reminded me of something, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I followed the jams, and as they got louder and louder, I saw a man not much older than I was at the time. He reminded me of myself, sitting at a park bench staring at the passing cars, taking it all in. I wrapped up the rest of my sandwich and tapped him on the shoulder. “Hello kid,” is what he said to me. “Sit down and let’s talk a while.”
So, I did. We sat on that bench for hours telling stories. Well, he did most of the telling; but the stories he had about his life were incredible. I couldn’t help but wonder who this guy was and how he had so much to tell, so young. He taught me a few chords on his guitar of my favorite Grateful Dead songs, which I picked up pretty quickly.
After a while, the man asked about a good place to eat, so I gave him the rest of the roast beef sandwich my mom made me. The baguette bread was what really did him in, so I took him down to Livingston Street to the Roux Family Bakery. My father went down to that bakery every morning to get loaves and loaves of French baguette fresh out of the pizza oven.
When I walked in with the man, Mr. and Mrs. Roux’s eyes immediately lit up. It’s like they knew him from somewhere, but they never revealed his name. They invited us both behind the counter where all the kneading and baking happened. They offered to teach us the ropes.
The way the Roux’s worked was very traditional. There were no machines helping them in the early mornings, everything was done by hand. Now, coming from a long line of Brooklyn butchers, it’s safe to say I know what I’m talking about when it comes to meat. Give me some flour and a rolling pin, on the other hand, and there’s a lot of room for growth.
The Roux’s took the time after closing to teach me how to make their famous baguette, while Guitar Guy pulled up a chair and played some tunes for us. I poured the flour, yeast, water, and salt into a mixture, and Mr. Roux added the secret family ingredient that makes their bread stand apart from other bakeries. To this day, I still have yet to find out what that ingredient was. For what felt like hours, I kneaded the dough until it was ready to sit overnight. The amazing thing about this whole experience was that we didn’t use one tool!
As a special thanks, Mr. and Mrs. Roux gave me a two-foot long rolling pin so I could easily make the baguette at home without straining my arms. Mr. Roux made the pin himself in France when he and his father built home furnishings. It’s gifts like those, with so much history, that have inspired the Fleischer & Wolf cookware line.
At that moment, with music still playing in the background, I knew food was my safe haven. To make people happy with the flavors I could bring them, no matter how simple the recipe. A few years later, while whipping up a hearty meal and watching some TV, I caught a glimpse of the Grateful Dead. It was only then that I realized; the man in the park was Jerry Garcia! What a small world.