By bread alone

In the freezer is one precious French roll, squirreled away to break out on a dark winter day when my soul needs a lift.

When I wrapped up the roll towards the end of the summer, I never considered that it would truly be the last one. My wave of sadness isn’t for the loss of the bun, but for the baker. While I can’t claim to be a friend, I, like many in town, mourn the passing of Nancy Moriarty.

I first met Nancy years ago when her son Jason was an eighth-grader. It was a time when parents still attended conferences, which as a new teacher was somewhat terrifying. I truly don’t remember much about the meeting except that she made me feel like I was doing the right thing. Reassurance was a salve to my nerves, the calm after many sleepless nights filled with visions of failure.

It was later that Nancy baked her way into the rhythm of our family. One of the perks of moving to town was the Saturday morning farmers market, where her Cake Flour Bakery booth was a popular fixture. Each weekend my girls and I would head down, purportedly to get vegetables, which occasionally did happen, but we’d always come home with a sack of baked goods.

Some days at the market would take longer than others because, time permitting, Nancy always liked to have a word. We shared communal eye rolls about our children and husbands. We’d kvetch about rude customers with outrageous expectations. She also loved to throw out zingers, catching regulars off guard. If you weren’t careful, she’d catch you in her trap. A conversation that replays in my mind goes something like this:

“Hey, was that you running with your dog this morning?” Nancy asked.

“Yeah, I try to run before the town gets too busy,” I answered, expecting the customary “good for you.”

“You’ve been running a long time.”

I nodded my agreement, still waiting for the cliched compliment to follow.

“Then why do you still look so terrible?”

Well, that was unexpected … but undoubtedly true. I laughed so hard, all I could answer was, “I guess that’s just who I am.”

“Guess so.” She laughed and handed me my order.

I never asked if she was referring to my running form or overall person. It’s probably better not to know.

Over time, our routine became so ingrained that Nancy would reach for the bag of French rolls whenever she saw us coming. Nancy knew that the rolls were a constant, that croissants were my kids’ preferred treat and that Bill lived for cinnamon buns. She took the time to ask about the family and remember the tiny details. The next local customer would come, and it would be the same. These conversations were little more than small talk, but they were the ties that bound us as a community.

In short, conversations with Nancy were the bright spot in my Saturday mornings. Knowing this, my family would expect a full Nancy report as they enjoyed her delicious treats.

As a town, Nancy’s cakes graced our celebrations, her bread adorned our daily meals, and her gracious gifts consoled us during times of grief. She gave to the carousel and other charities, but her greatest gift was her labor, rising early and putting sleep on hold to provide for others. Bring up Nancy’s name and tales of her thoughtfulness emerge. Read Fortune-Keough’s memory wall, and you’ll see the same. Collectively, these stories show the tremendous impact she had on others. I’m not alone when I wish I had told Nancy how much I appreciated her.

“All sorrows are less with bread,” wrote Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, and I think he’s right. The freezer roll seems different now. It reflects all the early mornings spent baking, the cold days standing at the market booth, and the care she put into her art. Because of this, instead of just being a comfort on a blue winter day, each nibble will become a celebration of Nancy, who cast her bread upon Saranac Lake.


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