Inside the Land of the Rising Dough

-By Caoimhín Ó Laoghaire

In the fall of 2011, I began working in the early mornings for Biggareau Bakery.  I think the name means the Big Cherry in Italian.  It is part of the Shiraishi Bread Company of Hita.   Breaking the great bamboo ceiling in Japan is  quite a victory for me.   The opportunity to work in a relaxed fun environment  and to joke in Japanese does wonders for my mental health.  For once, I am not confined to the classroom.    At the bakery, we all really cut up  in the kitchen and its not just the sliced bread.   We have to be careful to keep our laughter contained which is not easy.

I work with many interesting people.  There is Mr. Jojima, the king of the ovens.  Nobody touches the ovens but him.  There is a nice jumbo sized wood fired Italian pizza oven and many other types of ovens that line the wall and he rules that kingdom.   The people of Biggareu are great to work with.   In addition to Mr. Jojima the the oven master, there are about 4 people working in the kitchen rolling, kneading and filling.   Last but not least, we cannot forget the sales staff out in the shop.  They are all young ladies and they are all hotter than the hot crossed buns out of Jojima’s inferno.

It seems to me some of the young ladies are doing a lot of educational reading in their free time.  I get asked quite frequently to explain difficult questions about something they have seen in American movies or have read.   I have not come across these types of inquiries in my English teaching, nor have adequate ELT textbooks addressed this essential part of western culture.  Consequently, I really do not know the answer to many of their questions.   For example,

” Do all American women shave their pubic area and sport Brazilian Waxes?”

” Why do Americans have sex with the man standing in the doorways carrying the woman?”

“What does S & M stand for? ”

Really!  How the hell should I know?   I have been involved with exclusively Japanese women for the past 30 years and have been completely baffled for about 27 of those years.  Boy, do I have some questions for them about the Japanese!    Let’s be fair and have a fruitful cross-cultural exchange.  I may not be the best coach for them as I have always been an introverted dull boy and it is beyond my area of expertise.  I just tell them, “Let me email the only woman I know in the United States that won’t slap me and I will try to get the answer to your questions.”  Afterall, my area of expertise is researching the unknown and like a good salesman saying, “Golly gee, I don’t know.  But I will investigate for you and get you the answer.”  It sure is an education for me too.  Darn shame creeping close to 50, I am to old to do much field research on the subject and learn a few things myself.

We have quite a large menu in the sandwich area where I usually work.  I really only involve myself with half of the menu.  I’m not really the best at cutting the different types of bread and putting out some of most attractive sandwiches.  In a typical day I will make  Ham and Cheese Oven Baked Breakfast Sandwiches, Cheeseburgers, Tarter Fish Filet Sandwiches, Pork Cutlet Burgers, Shrimp Patty Sandwiches,  Croquette Sandwiches, Teriaki Chicken with Burdock Salad, Hot Dogs, Oven Baked Chili Dogs, Oven Baked Mentai Dogs and 3 varieties of Italian Panini, BLT and Bagel Sandwiches.  I start these up at 7AM and get most of them done by about 9:30 as long as the only person older than me, Miyoko, shuts the hell up so I can do my sandwiches.   If she starts fondling my cabbage bed on my hot dogs and stuffing, tucking and suggesting this and that, I will be lucky to finish by 11AM.  She is in her 60s, means well and is kind, but damn lady, go back to your paninis and let go of my wieners!

I do a fair amount of prepatory cooking for the bakery.  I make Chocolate Cream filling, Custard Cream filling,  and help with making the Curry for the famous Curry filled bread, Secret sauces for sandwiches, spice mixing.  These are all original recipes which I will not be sharing the secrets here of.  I am not mad at boss so his set up and ingredients are are safe with me.

I have also been cross trained to help out in the, bakery kitchen if there is a sudden emergency or absence of key people.   In this event, I would be seperating and cutting dough.  making loaves of bread, putting together two varieties of handmade pizzas,  Teriaki Chiken and Pepperoni.  They really are good pizzas from the time I make them from scratch until they come out of the oven.  From there it is all downhill.  I sometimes want to rush the kitchen and save these poor pizzas when they exit the oven.  For land sakes, ladies why do you squirt mayonnaise on the top of a perfect creation and sprinkle it with seaweed?   Yes, we know we are in Japan, but give the customers a real pizza already!

I am far from being a pro even after seven months and I make more than my share of mistakes.  I always know when something isn’t right, when my super hot supervisor Aya says, “Ah, Kevin, Kevin.”  When my name is said twice, I know I made a mistake that I have to go back and correct.  If I hear my name once, I know I am OK and she just has another question about western style intimacy customs.

In summary, I have to reccommend this place to anyone living in the Asakura area.  It is a very good bread shop and when you come in, you can get complimentary coffee when you buy bread.  It has a great atmosphere and there is even a kiddie corner with books for the kids so Mom and Dad can take their time selecting their baked goods.   I personally reccomend the curry pan, American style cinnamon rolls and any item that has our original custard or chocolate cream.


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