David Wade of Cedar Grove makes and sells gorgeous loaves of bread at farmers markets; peace and joy are among the rewards
They say bread is the staff of life, and few people believe that more than David Wade of Cedar Grove.
Whether making bread for his family or to sell at the Port Washington farmers market under the name Wading Bear Bread (his mother called him Bear), Wade said he’s most at peace when he’s making bread.
“People say making bread is therapeutic, and it turns out to be true for me,” Wade said. “One morning while I was making bread, I had this unexpected feeling — this is what I like, this is what I enjoy doing.”
The love and joy comes out in his bread, his wife Whitney said.
“I’ve seen that whatever David’s going through comes out in his bread,” she said, noting the rolls and breads may be more freely formed if he’s in a light-hearted mood than if he’s contemplative.
“They’re all handmade, so they’re not uniform. He’ll come out with this basket filled with rolls and breads and ask if it’s good enough. It’s gorgeous. It’s definitely a work of art.”
The entire family goes to the farmers markets, where daughter Sonya, 11, has become a good salesperson and son Rowan, who turned 8 last week, helps in his own way.
The breads and rolls sell out quickly. Several repeat customers told Wade they come to the market early to make sure they get his bread.
“That elevated me in my game,” he said. “If people were coming early to get my bread, I didn’t want to disappoint them.”
The shapes of his rolls are distinctive. Most of his breads are topped with a mixture of sesame, fennel and poppy seeds.
“People love the seeds,” Whitney said. “That’s kind of become his signature, and the seeds are good for you. Sesame has calcium, fennel aids in digestion and poppy has a calming effect.”
Whitney can say that with some authority. She’s an ayurvedic health counselor at Saukville Chiropractic Clinic, which is owned by her brother-in-law Ty Wade, and is working toward her certification in the field. She often helps people with digestion issues.
“It’s addressing your spiritual and physical needs through food, meditation and the science of yoga,” Whitney said of her profession.
Wade is a stay-at-home dad working on his master’s degree in counseling at Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon. He previously worked with clients who were abused and is interested in helping soldiers who have been in war zones adjust to returning home.
He is also a substitute teacher in the Cedar Grove-Belgium School District and coaches Sonya’s sixth-grade basketball team. Rowan is in second grade.
Wade said he’s always enjoyed cooking with locally grown ingredients, making soups, pizzas, tortillas and, of course, bread. But it was an encounter with a Zen Buddhist baker that took his breadmaking hobby to another level.
The man, who is semi-retired and baking for a Sheboygan restaurant, wanted to sell his equipment for making bread and selling it at farmers markets. He was also looking for someone to help fix up his property.
“It was a nice coincidence,” Wade said. “He needed help around his house and to get rid of his equipment, and I wanted the equipment but didn’t have any money.
“I helped him around the house, and he showed me a few tricks of the trade. He showed me how to go from making one or two loaves of bread to making enough to sell at a market and have all of them look good.
“I feel I got the best part of the bargain, and he feels he did.”
The baker’s philosophy that anything worth doing is worth doing to the best of one’s ability and deserves full attention rubbed off on Wade, showing up in his bread and other aspects of his life, his wife said.
“For a Buddhist, he wasn’t very gentle,” Wade said. “He would taste my bread and say, ‘What did you do? That’s lousy.’”
Wade is expanding his market. He started making bread this week for the Java Dock in Port Washington and may sell loaves there as well.
“Bread is such a natural food. It’s four ingredients — flour, salt, yeast and water,” Wade said.
His children are learning to cook and make bread. Wade plans meals with their input, and everyone has a job to do to bring it to the table.
Rowan recently created his first cooking show. He made a salad and narrated the process while his mother filmed him.
“The camera is shaking because I was trying so hard not to laugh out loud,” Whitney said. “He was doing some fancy cutting with a big knife. I think most mothers would be horrified, but they know how to use knives and other utensils.”
Food is a big part of the family’s life and brought the couple together 13 years ago in Michigan, where both grew up.
Whitney was the caterer for a weekend seminar on peaceful protest organized by a group that opposed a nuclear power plant in the community. Wade was opposed to the nuclear plant, but more attracted to the cook than the message.
“I went to fewer and fewer seminars and spent more and more time in the kitchen,” he said. “And I needed his help,” Whitney said, adding he quickly learned to be a prep cook. “You can tell a lot about people while working with them in a kitchen.”
Working in a kitchen or gardening is a good way to get people to talk, Wade said, and it’s something he hopes to use when counseling clients.
The couple would also like to have a kitchen and garden where they could use Whitney’s knowledge of Eastern medicine to show people how to grow and prepare food that can nurture and heal them.
Image Information: David Wade holds three round loaves of bread he made for his family (from left) daughter Sonya, wife Whitney and son Rowan. Photo by Sam Arendt