In search of a life well lived, what could be more wholesome than fresh-baked bread from a wood-fired oven. I set off early this morning for McBurney Manor in McAlevy’s Fort in Huntingdon County. Nancy, the proprietor of McBurney Manor Bed & Breakfast, bakes all of our bread for Stonefly Cafe in Reedsville.
The sun was just breaking through the remaining storm clouds, and the light danced over the ice-covered landscape. Mist rose from the valleys and clung to the ridges, crags, and mountaintops creating an almost Black Forest–like setting.
I arrived at the bakehouse to find a peaceful early morning scene. As I swung open the door, I was met with the smell of yeast and wood smoke. Nancy had laid a fire early yesterday morning in the ancient brick oven and had tended it throughout the day as the storm grew, piling ice and snow across the countryside. In the fading light of that evening, Nancy began the process of loading bread and rolls onto the brick hearth, working into the small hours of the morning.
The bakehouse was warm and cozy as the old oven continues to radiate heat throughout the day. I took a few minutes to admire Nancy’s work, finding breads, rolls, and par-baked pizza crusts lined on shelves awaiting those who know about this special place to stop by and pick up their daily bread. I paid for my order that was awaiting me and placed my check into the antique china vegetable tureen that is used as a cash register as this is occasionally an “on your honor” retail establishment.
The warmth from the bakehouse—and the aroma of bread—stayed with me long after. May God bless the craftsmen, artisans, and purveyors that maintain these traditional ways of life, providing a diversity of product and choice to those of us who understand the joys of how real food tastes.
If you have the chance to travel through McAlevy’s Fort, Pennsylvania, and the Hearth-Baked Bread Sign is out, stop by and help maintain one of these special places.