Anybody who calls a bread "Old Stumpie" is alright by me.
Not to anthropomorphize a loaf of bread too much, but when I met my first Stumpie I had to smile at something with such a sympathetic name that looked like a friendly brown alligator with no legs — or tail, for that matter — and sesame and pumpkin seeds flecking its back.
But why call it Stumpie? That question drove me to poke in the fridge of Mark and Paula Lamming, creators of Old Stumpie and owners of the cleverly named Purebread (a riff on "thoroughbred" and something clean, solid and natural: "pure bread") located in Whistler's Function Junction.
But first I had to ask Mark how a Kiwi (those accents are a giveaway) ended up in Whistler baking up a storm. It's one of those "do-what-you-love" stories riddled with happenstance and good timing.
After leaving Christchurch, New Zealand, for a year of travel which has now become 25 years away, Mark happened to end up in London, England, "flatting" with a bunch of Kiwis and working his own commercial cleaning business. One of his flat mates happened to work with Paula, a Canadian expat, who came along to a barbecue.
It was 1988; the two hit it off. After a trip to the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, Mark landed a job back in London at British Telecom just as the Internet was taking off. A cheap London-Vancouver flight in May 1990 provided their first glimpse of Whistler.
"It was amazing. The skiing was still going on, so we skied in the morning and then mountain biked in the afternoon," says Mark. "We thought, wow — this place is incredible!"
When Paula became pregnant with their first child, Megan, they decided London wasn't the place to raise a family, so they chose the Toronto suburb where Paula had grown up. Mark's experience at British Telecom landed him a spot with Oracle software. In charge of customer service across Canada, he often came to Vancouver. Since the brother of one of his co-workers just happened to manage the Crystal Lodge, the Lammings visited Whistler again and again.
Then when Mark's office in Toronto moved, giving him a two-hour commute, a line was crossed.
"I don't know what the trigger point for Whistler was, but we said, let's just wing it and see if I can get some work. If not, then Vancouver is not a bad second choice."
That was 19 years and a Club Intrawest management job ago. When the Intrawest job folded with the Fortress takeover, more serendipity unfolded.
"Norm and Natasha Strim, who run Nonna Pia's Balsamic Reductions, were doing Bizarre Bazaar in 2008," says Mark. "We had a bread maker and had been playing around making bread more for our own use, but we'd also been sharing it with friends. They really liked it, and asked us to do bread for them for sampling."
As it turned out, as many people asked about the bread as they did about the balsamic vinaigrettes.
"What a bread maker showed us was how easy it is to make bread," he says. "There's a bit of magic but no real mystery to it."
By the following year Mark and Paula had their own table at Bizarre Bazaar selling bread. And by 2010, Purebread was an icon at Function Junction and beyond. In fact, Old Stumpies and their cousins like Seriously Seedy and more — even the cranberry, ginger, raisin bread Vancouver Magazine named one of the Top 100 things you must taste in Vancouver — can be had at farmers' markets from Whistler to Langley, 150 market days this summer alone.
Their fridge — a stainless GE perched in their Whitewater townhouse that's part of the very nice employee housing in the former Olympic Village — is a reflection of all of the above.
On top sits a bunch of big ceramic serving platters and a Mexican mortar and pestle from another of their trips. The door sports a lottery ticket ("guess we haven't won"); an Irish fridge magnet leprechaun bottle opener; a recipe from Australia's delicious. magazine for spaghetti sauce that they make with all the farm-fresh cherry tomatoes available now; and, to top it off, a farmers' market shopping checklist (as if they need that!).
Inside, the first thing we find is a container of homemade carrot, cashew, coconut soup Paula made with coconut milk (they're trying to cut back dairy) and a feast of fresh produce and goodies from the various market farmers who like to trade or barter. There's an eggplant; zucchinis from Camel's Back Harvest in Pemberton; blueberries slated for blueberry lemon ginger jam; and feta cheese.
The second shelf is almost solid greens, also from fellow market vendors, including a spicy salad mix from Squamish, fresh basil and a salad mix with edible flowers. The exception: butter with big chunks of sea salt they brought back from France.
On the third shelf are organic eggs, again from the farmers' market; a block of parmesan; a bag of purple green beans; some of Whistler Brewing's grapefruit ale; salsa from Momma Nellie, another market vendor; carrots; and spinach tortillas for wraps and enchiladas.
In the fresh produce drawers we find — what else? — more produce: snap peas, Serrano chilies, golden beets, more carrots, sundried tomatoes, some "really old lemon grass," a bag of Brussels sprouts and some fresh herbs.
The fridge door, as expected, is a kingdom of condiments for cooking up a storm, from Dijon mustard and chipotle mayo to sweet onion jam from Sticky Spoon ("the best jam maker in Vancouver") and dried shitake mushrooms. Though I can't imagine why, they even have a container of Green Superfood and, embarrassingly, notes Mark (but I think it's pretty funny), a packet of yeast way past its expiry date.
Since we were on the shelves with a professional baker, I had to ask his opinion on keeping bread in the fridge, especially in summer when heat and humidity are a bread's worst enemy. Conventional wisdom is not to, says Mark, since fridges are so drying. Best to keep your loaf in a paper bag in a breadbox or tin. If need be, cut it in half or slices, wrap it well and freeze it.
So, are the Purebread-ists sick of bread? Nope, they love different breads different times of year. In fact as we talk, son, Jack, is making a sandwich with their buckwheat sour cherry pecan bread.
As for my friend, Stumpie, he's a rye/wheat hybrid made with Stump Town coffee and molasses. Good Ol' Stumpie. I just knew he was named with reason.
For the Lamming's favourite recipe for fresh cherry tomato spaghetti sauce, go to piquenewsmagazine.com.
Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who can eat almost half an Old Stumpie at one sitting.
Spaghetti in cherry tomato sauce
(From delicious. magazine)
2 250-g. punnets of cherry tomatoes, halved
150 ml. olive oil
6 garlic cloves, sliced
2 long red chilies, seeds removed, finely chopped
6 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
1 tbsp. capers, rinsed, drained
2 tbsp. white wine
400 g. spaghetti
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 c. flat-leafed parsley, finely chopped
Grated parmesan, to serve
Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F). Place cherry tomatoes on a baking tray, drizzle with 2 tbsp. olive oil. Roast for 20 min. until collapsed and lightly caramelized. Heat remaining 110 ml. of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Cook garlic, chilies and anchovies for 1–2 min., stirring, until anchovies melt. Add capers, white wine and cherry tomatoes plus any cooking juices and bring to a simmer. Continue to cook, stirring, for a further 3 min. until thick and rich. Taste and adjust seasoning. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti until al dente, drain and toss with sauce. Add lemon juice and parsley, then sprinkle with parmesan. Serves 4.
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