Rocket Baby and the leavening power of yes

Published on: 4/22/2012

I’m not sure if it’s the sun and grand opening balloons or the incredible croissanty crispness of a perfect blueberry cheese Danish, but this morning’s trip to Rocket Baby Bakery did much to restore my dented hopefulness.

People sat on a bench outside, chatting and watching other people strolling about, getting their Sunday ham at Cranky Al’s across the street or just enjoying the day. The only thing marring the scene of a vibrant city street was the blank marquee at the Rosebud Cinema, and there’s reason to believe the lights will go on again there.

Whatever’s happening on North Avenue is happening because people are saying yes. Yes to their dreams, yes to working together to get funding and knock over obstacles, yes to the right things, the things that lift us all up. From this higher vantage point, you look around and see endless possibility. Which is a lot of what hope is about.

And I’m letting myself think that Wauwatosa is ready, ahead of the game in our state, to move away from the hard no to the soft but enthusiastic, hard-working, well-informed yes, the let’s figure out how to do it.

Gloom and Doom

The political atmosphere in Wisconsin has felt so heavy for a long time. There’s a relentless “no” to people, to the environment, to preservation and innovation in our communities. We hear we must sacrifice to feed economic growth. . . somewhere, while the value of people and places here are being driven down to fire sale levels. Good for speculators and carpetbaggers. Not so good for the rest of us.

Other Places

I just got back from Minneapolis, where I’d fled to visit a friend and let a little environmental change lift my spirits. Wherever you look people are strolling, running, pedaling, stopping in small groups to converse.  It’s a city that says “yes” to people, welcomes them with gorgeous paths and plantings everywhere, bookstores and coffee shops and a thousand little places you can’t wait to visit, where you can’t help but spend money.

The city has invested in itself and made it a place people want to be because, well, it’s so nice to be there. For everyone, CEO and janitor alike. And generally, it’s working a lot better than Wisconsin’s fire sale approach.

Leavening Economics

If you bake, you know about leavening. It’s “an influence that works subtly to lighten or modify something,” giving it the ability to rise and increase in volume. It makes more of a good thing. The dough used for croissants and Danish pastries uses two kinds of leavening to make air space—yeast and melting butter—and requires time, patience, and a bit of skill. And that’s why the result is extra delicious.

I’m not sure how to try to compare this with trickle down economics, except to say that the only time you really use it in cooking is if you want a very thin glaze layer of something, because thin and thinner is where trickle down gets you.

Rocket Baby: that's leavening. Not trickle-down.

Rising Tosa

As much as we love speed, growth that doesn’t rocket but takes its time, accelerates steadily, and is supported by a fair amount of substantial stuff (flour, not just air) tends to be more solid. You can whip up a soufflé, but it only takes a minute to fall. A city, you want that to be more like a good sour dough rye bread.

Rocket Baby is just the latest of a slow rising, now moving faster, that’s been going on in Wauwatosa for a couple years now.  And not just along North Avenue. You can’t think about the power of yes to leaven the dough and improve the quality of the community without mentioning Denise Lindberg and friends and the restoration of the Hoyt Park Pool.  That seems like a yes turning point.

In any event, the other half of the Danish is calling me and I must heed it. Good things just kind of leave us wanting more, you know?