12 November 2018

HISTORY THAT NEVER GOES STALE

A Muse Bouche | Alexandra Forand


The Harbord Bakery and Calandria sits comfortably in the middle of Harbord St. and Major St. It is a medium sized building with large windows on the first floor. You may have seen it on your way to class, or even gone in. When a customer walks in, they will immediately smell the many different kinds of bread baking, see the variety of products the bakery sells, and hear the overwhelming chatter of the many patrons and staff. Usually, when I walk into the Harbord Bakery and Calandria I intend to drool over the beautifully displayed cakes; instead, I walk out with a history lesson. I do not know about you dear readers, but I seldom think of establishments such as restaurants, bakeries, and grocery stores as having rich histories let alone being a place of learning and preservation of history.

Harbord Bakery. Photograph courtesy of Alexandra Forand. 

In the case of the Harbord Bakery and Calandria, a narrative is told through the photographs and keepsakes that line the walls. A complete story of the establishment is told from black and white wedding photos, to colored photos taken in the bakery itself. Accompanying the photographs are 8 x 11 white pages with black text explaining the photographs, much like an information panel in a museum. Susie, one of the owners of the bakery tells me that the photographs are mainly pictures of her family, especially her mother and father. Susie’s parents Goldie and Albert Kosowers both left Poland for Canada in the late 1920s. Most of Goldie’s family remained in Poland and perished in the Holocaust. After meeting each other at the movie theatre Goldie worked at, Goldie and Albert married and established the Harbord Bakery in 1945. Together, the two expanded the bakery from simply baking delicious bread, to serving cakes, rolls, and other delicacies. In 1955, the Calandria portion of the bakery was built and served prepared food. Today, that area is an artesian shop still attached to the bakery.

Selection of artisan products the Harbord Bakery and Calandria serves. Photograph Courtesy of Alexandra Forand 

Not only is the evolution of the bakery captured in the significant objects that line the walls, but the experiences of those who immigrated during the early 20th century to Canada is on display as well. This is not an uncommon theme for museums to focus on. In fact, the Tenement Museum in New York City is exclusively dedicated to capturing what life was like in Lower East Side between the 19th to 21st century. The Tenement Museum is located at 97 Orchard St. and is comprised of seven restored apartments and a German beer Saloon. This museum relies on guided tours to lead visitors through the museum,  experience of what life was like, and how buildings can convey a unique history.

View of the bakery section. Photograph Courtesy of Alexandra Forand.
In the case of Harbord Bakery and Calandria, the history of the building is conveyed, and the stories of individuals' experiences during the Holocaust are revealed. It is rare to be able to experience such an intimate look at history while also picking up a loaf of whole wheat bread. Goldie and Albert operated the bakery, but their connection to it ran much deeper. They lived above the bakery in an apartment, raised their children in the bakery, and poured their spirit into the building. This passion for the bakery, the people it brings in, and the food that is prepared has been passed down to Susie, her siblings, and their children. The Harbord Bakery and Calandria is not just a bakery, but a place where one can acquire knowledge, become inspired, and yes, try some delicious food.

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