By Peter Vandermeersch
Every Saturday and Sunday for the last two months, this is my weekend prayer. The Happy Pear? Dutch and Belgian readers of this blog are already wondering what kind of religious sect I decided to join here in Ireland. Irish readers probably think that I’ve turned vegan. They obviously know the twin brothers, David and Stephen Flynn, famous founders of The Happy Pear, which an appealing fresh food and vegetable store in Greystones, just outside Dublin. The hyperactive twins are the authors of multiple vegan cookbooks, owners of one of Ireland’s most followed social media accounts on Instagram. In fact they are adored high priests in the church of healthy food (“eat more fibre, buy less processed food”) and cheerful providers of crucial advice (“four tips to optimise your diet and libido”). Now that the Catholic church has lost its grip on this country, The Happy Pear doctrine seems to be almost a religion for many Irish people.
I didn’t know The Happy Pear until last month, when I moved from the centre of Dublin to Greystones, a picturesque seaside town in County Wicklow. Everybody here seems to be affluent, hearty and healthy. According to some locals, you shouldn’t be allowed to own a house here unless, at least three times a week, you take a plunge into the bloody cold Irish sea. (I mean: in winter three times a week, but in summer every day, of course).
So I became a Happy Customer of The Happy Pear. Yet here’s the thing: I did not become a regular of The Happy Pear for their great tomatoes, sweet potatoes or organic onions. What I thank God every Saturday and Sunday for is…the bread. The happy twins, I discovered, are the best bakers in this town. Every morning, they bake fresh baguettes and excellent sourdough. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is rare in this country.
I love bread. One of the great advantages of living in Paris in the first half of the Nineties was the number of boulangeries in the French capital. However, one doesn’t have to live in Paris to enjoy good bread. When I was living in Tervuren, a small town of about 25,000 people, 15 kilometres outside Brussels, I could walk to three wonderful bakeries with plenty of choice. Moving from Tervuren to Amsterdam in The Netherlands, I had less options. Dutch people buy their bread (or what they think is bread) in industrial supermarkets, not in local bakeries.
Moving from Amsterdam to Dublin didn’t improve my bread menu at all. Irish people also appear to buy their bread in supermarkets, or in filling stations. Real fresh, daily bakers are a rarity. So when I decided to move from Dublin to Greystones, with about 20,000 inhabitants, I expected the worst. Until, that is, I discovered The Happy Pear.
I have my own peculiar bread theory: the better the bread, the more interesting the culture. France and Belgium score high on my list. The Netherlands and Ireland have a problem. Greystones was almost a wasteland. Until I discovered the little bakery in The Happy Pear store.
By the way: The Happy Pear is also the kind of shop where they will ask immediately where your accent comes from and if you liked the sourdough loaf you bought last week. Real bread and authentic Irishness. Thank God!