“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
I read this article in the Dallas Paper today:
Delightful smells of flour, butter and sugar from Mrs. Baird’s baking plant filled the intersection of Mockingbird Lane and Central Expressway for almost 50 years.
But in 2001, the North Texas queen of bread closed down. What once was a highly efficient plant is now a Southern Methodist University data center and tennis complex.
The bakery’s absence left one reader asking Curious Texas: “Whatever happened to Mrs. Baird’s Bread?”
Executives made the decision to close the Dallas factory because its location didn’t allow much room for growth.
I have strong memories of the old Mrs. Baird’s bread factory at Mockingbird and 75.
In early 2001, during a difficult time, I took the kids (then nine and ten years old) with some of their friends down there for a tour of the factory. I didn’t realize that it would be gone in a few months.
From my journal –
Wednesday, March 14, 2001
Bowling and fresh bread
After the bowling, we drove down into Dallas for a prearranged tour of the Mrs. Baird’s bread factory. They make white sandwich bread and powdered sugar donuts. I’m not sure if the kids learned anything, but I thought it was pretty cool. I liked the giant pans of dough.
They gave us samples to try right off the line. The donuts were hot and crunchy and a lot better than when you buy them at a gas station or something. Then we came to the ovens, and the tour guide pulled a fresh loaf right off the line, sliced it, slathered it with some butter, and let each of us eat a chunk. I’m not a huge fan of regular sliced white bread, but this – hot, fresh, and fragrant – was delicious. I wonder what they do after they wrap the bread to make it so bland.
The tour was over pretty quickly, only about a half hour. The kids were given presents – paper hats, brochures, and bags of sugared mini donuts. I loaded six into the MiniVan and proceeded to make a wrong route decision and drove right into a big traffic jam.
Stuck in city traffic with a van full of kids eating donuts is not a fun thing. Luckily, I was able to bail off the freeway and wind my way home by the back roads without much trouble. Still, the seats had a thick coating of powdered sugar before we made it home.
I still remember the taste of those donuts and the fresh bread. It was so, so much better than the plastic wrapped product peddled over the next few days in the stores. I always think they had a room full of giant evil flavor-removing machines hidden away somewhere.
There was another time, a couple of years earlier, that I learned something about that bread factory. I was at a meeting on the air pollution – specifically the high ozone levels of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Ground level ozone is a complex phenomena which is mostly generated by the mixture of VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds – mostly solvents, like gasoline), Nitrogen Oxides, and sunlight which causes the normal O2 to convert into the toxic and unstable O3. – EPA page on Ground-level Ozone
I was at the conference talking to the guy next to me.
“I work for Mrs. Baird’s,” he said.
“The bread company? Surely you don’t have any air pollution.”
“No, you’re wrong. Every day we make hundreds of tons of bread dough. The yeast gives out a tremendous amount of ethanol, which evaporates in the ovens. It’s all VOC and we are have a terrible problem complying with the air pollution regulations.”
The newspaper article talks about running out of space – but I know a big reason the plant closed (and production moved to a more rural – and ozone compliant area) is the air pollution caused by the rising bread. You always think of pollution being caused by giant, ugly factories – but it can come from something as simple and necessary as baking bread.