Yesterday, I went to see the future of European bread. Manou took Ellen and me for a tour of his bread factory. I am not sure exactly what Manou does but it involves shipping croissants to Japan.
I love visiting factories and seeing how things are made. In Luxembourg and Germany, while it appears that there are many small bakers, most are now supplied by industrial bakeries like Manou’s Fischer Co. The company bakes the most popular bread to near-doneness before sliding them on a conveyor belt into a serious deep freeze. The frozen bread finished as needed by bakers, both Fischer chains and independent shop owners. The benefit is hot bread on demand and reduced costs for bakeries, but this comes at the uniqueness of true hand-made baked goods. There is a sameness to food in Germany as opposed to the variety in France.
I was amazed that they have a hand-made bakery within the industrial factory, however. You can call this giant factory on the edge of the airport if you want a custom cake or pastry. Twenty old-timey bakers will make it for you. I have never heard of an American industrial baker with a commitment to maintaining at least a small remnant of old ways or the willingness to supply an obviously niche market.
Like everywhere I have been in Europe, there is tension with immigration. I was not expecting this in Luxembourg. Management is Luxembourgian. Workers tend to be Portuguese or French. I was surprised by the strain and anxiety about immigration and integration in Luxembourg.
We ate some wonderful hot samples, a bit of raw dough, and took some bread home to go with dinner. I was relieved that I did not show up in the Wonderbread jersey that I thought would be a decent joke, it would not have been funny. Manou’s bread is so much better. I have never known a Bread Baron before. I believe one should work hard to keep the Bread Givers happy.