We recently announced our “From the Vault” series: a collection of Christies classics from our nearly 90 years of operation. Some of these recipes haven’t seen the shelves in quite some time—and some haven’t been used at all! We’re starting the series off with the perfect treat for Mother’s Day: our Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing. It’s available in a limited quantity for Mother’s Day, so make sure you order one today! To celebrate our walk down memory lane, I wanted to share some personal memories about growing up in the bakery.
I have to say first that my experience is more limited than the rest of my family members, as I grew up in the United States. But almost like it was a right of passage for Muzzolinis, every member of my family has spent some part of their life working in the bakery. Tracey estimated about 15 Muzzolinis have worked in the business, which is quite a feat, considering only a handful of us still live in Saskatoon. Growing up, my dad helped out as a delivery driver. Seeing as he was training for bodybuilding competitions at the same time, I’m not too sure how he didn’t lose his mind with all those carbs around him! Before becoming a nurse, my cousin Juliana served coffees at our Broadway location. My seven year-old cousins have even helped out, handling the cash register on slower nights!
I was too shy at that age to even think about being seen out in front of customers, but then again I was still too shy years later when I’d come up in the summers to help out. I began as the delivery driver and dishwasher. I can’t say it was awful being a high school student surrounded by a bunch of older girls! I’ve now grown out of my timidness, but that hasn’t stopped me from hiding behind the espresso machine or bread slicer when I have to cover a shift from time to time.
Before I moved to Saskatoon, any visit to the City of Bridges began with a stop at the bakery. Rather than organize a lunch or dinner, it was much easier to go to the one place we knew everyone would be! My mom usually had to decide between hugging everyone and getting flour onto her white coat. And no trip would be complete without stopping by the bakery one last time before heading back to the airport. I still can’t figure out if the other passengers were happy or angry to have the smell of fresh bread fill the airplane. It was also an interesting conversation explaining to the TSA agent why I was bringing a suitcase filled only with bread and cinnamon buns across the border. If she had tasted the baked goods, she would’ve understood why!
I will say that there are a few products that haven’t been on our shelves in a long time that I do miss. I only speak for myself here so I cross my fingers that these make a return in our From the Vault series. There is a classic picture of a five year old me holding a long john as big as my head. That, along with the rest of our donuts are something I remember fondly. I can still smell the donuts being pulled out of the fryer now. The other product is something my parents definitely didn’t like as much as I did. We used to sell decorated gingerbread cookies. We have brought these back at times, but the old school cookies were heavily iced and often into the shapes of TV characters like Elmo. Unsurprisingly, I always gravitated to these works of edible art. I was only interested in the icing and would find ways to bite and lick it off, leaving my face a colourful mess and the cookie a bare ginger base. I guess that's why my parents weren't fans!
One of my fondest memories of visiting Saskatoon as a young lad has to be the midnight baking sessions I would join my grandfather on. While he is no longer involved in the day-to-day operation of the business, it wasn’t too long ago that Ennio was still doing late night baking. I would always start the night with such excitement and energy, but that quickly dissipated and I’d be falling asleep in the office or the front of the bakery. After all, how could an eight year old expect to keep up with a seasoned baker! But growing up in a different country, these adventures were a great way for me to spend time with my grandfather, and watch him do what he does best.
Ennio even made a surprise appearance this Easter, helping shape our Pasqua breads! It was a special moment, as we had three generations of Muzzolinis (myself, Blair and Tracey, and Ennio) all working together to make a very special bread. The holidays are always a hectic time, the “Big Three” (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter) as we call them are our busiest days of the year. Every Easter we make more buns than the year before, most recently making over 200 dozen dinner and hot cross buns. To add to the fun, it’s usually just family members doing the majority of the baking, giving almost everyone the day off. It is a lot of work, but it is definitely made easier doing it alongside my aunt and uncle.
I do not take for granted how unique our situation is. Most businesses started with friends and families can’t handle the stress of being in business with those closest to them, and some avoid holiday gatherings for the awkward family moments. Yet somehow, through the smashed phones and thrown sticks of butter, we not only still like each other, but look forward to seeing each other outside of the business. To me, that is pretty special.