I Brake For Bakeries

That's long been my motto--I want to try every loaf and croissant and muffin and cookie in creation.

Besides drive-by sampling, one of the great purposes any bakery or coffee shop can provide is a gathering place, a community--food's noblest purpose, I've always thought. I think so even more strongly today, when no one can take any form of sustenance for granted. In an officeless, not to mention jobless, time, gathering places become yet more important.

So I was very pleased to read this story about the residents of Colebrook, a town in rural northern New Hampshire near the Canadian border, who rose up to rescue a French bakery whose owners were threatened with deportation--loss of visa renewal, really--because their business was considered too marginal for the United States to let them stay.

Yes, the Frenchy baked goods had seemed odd compared with puffy supermarket loaves, the story says. But soon the people of Colebrook became reliant on the treats--a story straight out of Chocolat, with hardscrabble New Englanders substituted for (typically, but there's my prejudice again) cold, hostile, suspicious French villagers.

Set as it is in New Hampshire, the story had--I hope--none of the movie's saccharine overtones, even if the Globe's picture of the facade does make the bakery-cafe look like a candy-colored movie set. But the ending is heartwarming nonetheless, more Frank Capra than France: battered by factory closings (Ethan Allen, the Ford dealer),the citizens began a letter-writing campaign, and it worked.

Here's the climax. To quote another French film title, Get out your handkerchiefs. And rally around whoever's making good food to keep a community together and nourished. Preferably baked goods.

"You cannot imagine what they did for me," said Verlaine Daeron, a 51-year-old former nurse-turned-bakery owner. She said her visa application folder at the US Embassy in Paris contained two pounds of letters from Colebrook-area residents and added, "It's a very, very nice town."

This week, Colebrook residents got their wish. The US Embassy reversed its decision and granted Daeron her visa, according to Daeron and the New Hampshire state director for Senator Judd Gregg, who was briefed by State Department officials on the case. A State Department spokeswoman, Laura Tischler, said the department does not comment on individual visa cases.

Yesterday, as word of the reversal trickled out and anxious residents tucked into Le Rendez-Vous, Marc Ounis, Daeron's business partner, stood smiling with arms folded over his apron and baker's whites offering the exact answer they wanted to hear: The bakery would remain open.
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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, immediately after which he came to The Atlantic. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.

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