Sue Allison

A bakery puts its unsold bread outside its door at closing time. The bread is so fresh, it is always made daily. The bakers are nice people. They like to make bread more than money, though of course they need enough money to make bread. They don't like to waste the bread they make, and they also think it is important to extend charity and prefer to extend their charity where they live. Which is what started their simple idea to put unsold bread outside the door at night for anyone who needs it. With a sign that it's there for anyone who needs it. People take it. Some of the people are homeless or live in shelters or halfway houses, and some are students. The bakers are happy to help. But word gets around. More and more people come for the free bread. Some come every day, whether they need to or not. People who used to buy bread at the bakery no longer do. It's not smart economics to pay for what you can get for free, they reason. Besides, there is always plenty. It's not like anyone has to gamble on whether or not to wait until the end of the day when the bread is free. There is always bread. Before long there is too much bread because no one is buying it anymore. The people who have freezers take more than they need. These are not homeless people, obviously. There is more and more bread as more and more people who used to be customers come only at closing time, when the bakers put out their unsold rye and seven-grain and wheat and country white, their cheese bread and olive bread and Etruscan bread and no-salt bread and semolina bread, their round loaves and oval loaves and sandwich loaf-shaped loaves and sourdough rolls and flatbread and baguettes and braided egg-washed ropes. The people have become bread connoisseurs, especially now that it's free, and they can experiment when they used to maybe only buy the country white or the whole grain. And if they don't like it or don't eat it all, what does it matter. It hasn't cost them anything. They pass along suggestions to other bread connoisseurs: try the sesame with cracked millet or the Tibetan barley or the raisin pumpernickel or the cornmeal lemon black walnut. They have become not only gourmands of wheat but cognoscenti of bread. Until one night there is no bread outside the bakery. A large crowd has gathered and is waiting for the door to open and the owners to deposit their unsold wares because people now like to get there early; some even wait brazenly before the daily deposit of unsold bread is made. It is long past closing time, and a large crowd has gathered. Soon the ones in the back start to panic. They are afraid there won't be enough bread for them. They want to know what's going on, since the crowd is so big they can't see the sign on the door. Meanwhile the ones in the front, vaguely aware of but not yet panicked by the growing realization that the people in the back are growing restive, are peering through the window past the Gone Out of Business sign in disbelief at the dark and gutted store. The people in the back of the crowd, imagining the ones in the front are taking it all, start to shout and then to push.





In my twenties, I fell in love with making bread by working my way through Edward Brown's The Tassajara Bread Book. After living in London and New York, where I worked as a journalist, I now live in a small town which has an artisan bread bakery and where I often go for coffee—and bread—and which donates unsold loaves to the local food bank.