Bewitching and the Baker’s Dozen

I think we finally figured out why our equipment keeps having trouble: we must have refused the witch her “dozen” cookies, thus resulting in a bewitching like that of Baas Volckert Jan Pietersen van Amsterdam. Let’s call him BVJPvA for short. Apparently our friend BVJPvA famously invented New Years cakes and “made gingerbread babies in the likeness of his own fat offsprings” from his bakery in Albany in the mid-1600s. He was reportedly worried about being bewitched — like, a lot — since he told others about it and took great pains to avoid it. 

But, one New Years Eve he must have gotten cocky and shed the cloak of bewitch worry. He was ruminating on what was looking like would be a good year – lots of profits, many an order for mince pies and “olie-koeks” (oil cakes maybe?) for the coming months, etc. A sharp banging interrupted his thoughts. An “ugly old woman” entered and screamed that she wanted a dozen of his renowned cookies.

BVJPvA was like: calm it down, lady, there’s no reason to scream. She shrieked again about the dozen cookies. BVJPvA fetched the cookies to get her out of the shop. But alas, she shrieked again, “I said a dozen! This is only 12!” The baker with the fat offspring told her if you want a dozen, this is a dozen. She insisted that one more was needed to make a dozen. They bandied back and forth for a moment before BVJPvA finally told her that if she wanted another cookie, she could go to the devil to get it. Whether she did or not, we’ll never know. But what happened next was that BVJPvA, who letting go of his fear of bewitching for a minute after a life of vigilance, would live to regret the interaction with the shrieking woman. From then on, it seemed like the bakery was indeed bewitched.

Bewitched indeed.
Bewitched Bakery

According to the book In the Light of Myth, a 1925 collection of myths from around the world in which this was all reported, the following was the fall out: “His cakes were stolen; his bread as so light that it went up the chimney, when it was not so heavy that it fell through the oven.” Then, even worse, his aforementioned plump children went “unkempt” and his wife went deaf. (Ummm, wait a sec… hahahaha <nervous laughter>.) Unseen hands would pluck bricks out of his oven and chuck them at the baker, and other parts of the bakery began to fall apart.

The shrieking woman returned a few more times, and each time BVJPvA told her to go to the devil to get her 13th cookie or bun. Two things are remarkable here (yes only two): one is her loyalty despite the fact that she never really got what she wanted (and it was actually available). The other is that the baker, afraid of bewitching all of his life did not recognize that he could have cleared this all up with a choice freebie. Instead, in desperation he called on St. Nick, who was the patron saint of Dutch feasts (yeah, news to us too). 

St. Nick was like bro, you’ve got to be more generous in your dealings with people and proceeded to deliver a lecture on charity. (I like to picture St. Nick as a middle manager who sighed heavily and was like, just give her what she wants.) When BVJPvA agreed to do so, St. Nick disappeared and the old, shrieking woman suddenly entered the shop. She made her demands again, and having learned his lesson, he was like fine, here’s your dozen cookies that is actually 13.  She then laughed and shrieked that the curse was lifted, no more bewitching! She declared that a dozen would therefore now be 13 and she made him swear on a gingerbread cake that he would honor it. No word on if the children became kempt again and if the wife regained her hearing…

Though a bit extreme, perhaps this was the basis for the old maxim the customer is always right. (Or, the beginning of the alternative facts era in America? Hey-oh.) The book confusingly concluded: “So, until thirteen new States arose from the ruins of the Colonies, when the shrewd Yankees restored the original number, thirteen made a baker’s dozen.”

At any rate, we’re not exactly sure who we ticked off and I think we’re usually pretty accommodating. But, as it will be the 13th day of the bewitching month and coming off of yet another equipment failure, if you come in and demand your 13th cookie, you’ll have a better chance of fulfillment this week as long as you pledge to remove the curse. We solemnly swear on a pecan oat bar. 

Now that we’ve all enjoyed that wild ride, how about getting wild this weekend with some wild yeast (sourdough) and wild rice — our special “winter is coming” soup with wild rice, squash and a splash of cream. We will also have a revamped cranberry bread, batard (fat baguettes), apple cobbler, and perhaps an experimental buckwheat loaf if it turns out. Plus all of our usual goodness. 

Thanks all – we hope to see you soon!