I live right down the road from the King Arthur Flour Company Store, something I take for granted but many bakers envy. In fact, I hear it’s quite the destination for folks who can actually bake a decent chocolate chip cookie or loaf of bread.
I suppose it is pretty cool, with every spice, extract and flavoring known to mankind; pans specifically for donuts, English muffins and scones; and cookie cutters in every shape you can imagine.
Baking must be doing well as an industry, because King Arthur just built a whole new store with a café and expanded classrooms. They are even calling it a campus.
Today was the first night of their official open house / grand opening, so I rode up to see what was happening.
The store is nice, although it didn’t feel too much bigger to me, but the café is huge now. And it was full of people, all standing in line for free beer, bread and cheese spread. There must have been dozens and dozens of them, queued up for their free food.
I wandered down the hall past the classrooms and discovered another room where free pizza was being served, cut up in tiny bite-sized pieces.
I can’t tell you what kind of pizza, because I couldn’t get close enough to see. People were swarming around the table, grabbing up handfuls as the pizzas was placed on the tables.
I watched for a couple of minutes in awe. You would think they hadn’t eaten in days. A pizza would get set down by a King Arthur employee and hands descended upon it like… I don’t even have the simile to describe it. They were simply voracious.
I noticed the same phenomenon when I visited the Cabot Cheese Factory in Cabot, Vermont.
You can take a tour, buy cheese and, of course, there are free samples. There was a constant line of people parading around and around the table, eating as much cheese as they could hold.
A few of them were there when I started the tour and still there when I was finished.
I like food as much, if not more, than the next person. But seeing people set upon free samples like that leaves me a bit nauseous. Do they always eat like that, or is it just because it isn’t costing them anything?
Part of the problem might be my free food phobia.
When I was a kid, I saw part of some horror movie on TV. I have no idea what the name of it was, but the scene I witnessed took place in a grocery store.
Someone, I’m assuming the bad guy, had put powdered glass in the store’s free samples. People were happily eating their free chips and dip or canned beef stew one minute and the next they were all spewing blood from their mouths.
I never see a food sample that I don’t think of that scene.
But I think it’s more the greed that bothered me more than the potential for swallowing powdered glass.
No one I saw was content to try a bite of King Arthur pizza and move on. They wanted platefuls, as much as they could get, more than the person beside them.
I left them my portion of free pizza and cheese spread and went home to eat a dinner made from groceries I had actually spent my hard-earned money on and a beer I actually bought.
And I didn’t have to worry about hacking up blood or getting elbowed by the person standing next to me.