When I first started baking bread, I went on a quest to find thick plastic bags to store my loaves in.
They’re remarkably difficult to source. Thin supermarket freezer bags tear too easily. Ikea stocks a range of sturdy zip-lock bags, but they’re limited in size, and I was keen to find something with an open top which could double as gift wrapping if needed.
About nine years ago, my search led me to CLC Plastic Bags in Marrickville. This small factory is a hive of polyethylene activity. As they don’t have a shopfront, it took a bit of waving to attract someone’s attention over the click-clack of machinery. This was followed by rummaging through packets of bags in all shapes and sizes until they found something which I thought might work. I took a sample home and tried it out.
The next day I returned with cash and bought the minimum quantity of 500 bags. From memory, they cost me $30 back then.
Now, you’d think 500 would have been enough for a lifetime, but given the speed at which I bake and give away, this quantity only lasted me five years. The bags are an extremely versatile size, and we use them for everything from loaves to flour to large chunks of meat. They hold up well in the freezer, protecting the contents far better than the thin supermarket versions.
A few years ago, I drove back to Marrickville to restock. I was delighted to find CLC still there, and came home with another pile of large, food-safe plastic bags. In the intervening few years, the price had gone up by $5, which I thought more than reasonable, given that the bags were sturdy enough to be reused several times before discarding.
Last week, I thought I should pick up some more before the Christmas rush. It had been several years since I’d last been in, and even though I still had a hundred or so bags left, I was in the area and, on a whim, thought I’d stock up.
The machines were still going click-clack click-clack when I walked in.
“Hi, can I help you?”
“Yes please. I’d like more plastic bags like the ones I bought from you last time.”
“Do you have a sample?”
“Err…no. But I want the ones I bought from you four years ago. They’re a thick plastic and about this big..” (I held my hands apart like a fisherman describing his catch…)
He looked at me with a sheepish smile. Perhaps he remembered us having the exact same conversation four years before.
“We have a lot of bags here…if you don’t have a sample, I don’t know what to give you..”
“Sure you do! I bought them here, they came in a pack of 500, and they’re about this big..” (I tried again with the hands…)
He was being very patient and I was trying hard not to laugh. I really must put a sample in the car for my next visit in 2020.
Finally, his sister (I’m guessing it was his sister) called out from the office. She knew which ones I wanted, and since I was last in, they’d started keeping these bags as a regular item, specifically for bread. I bought another bundle of 500, turning down her offer of a cheaper price if I bought an entire packet of 2,500. After all, I didn’t want to wait twenty years before coming back to do this again.
. . . . .
As I drove home, it occurred to me that there is so much joy in these small, incidental exchanges with kind people. The smiles, the laughter and the dialogue. Our lives are defined by our interactions with others, and opportunities to engage in pleasant conversation punctuate our days with little blips of cheer and goodwill.
Of course, it helps to be a raging extrovert. I’m more than happy to stand on a table at a party. But interestingly enough, I’ve never found large social gatherings appealing. I don’t go to school trivia nights, or blog-meets, or (shudder) girls’ weekends away. I think it’s because I don’t do well in any setting where I’m expected to behave in a particular way. I’m spectacularly rubbish at putting on a polite face.
But let me chat to the lovely guys at the car service centre, or grab a cup of coffee with a close friend, or discuss nesting herons with friendly joggers on the Greenway, and I’m as happy as a pig in mud.
So…let me end this ramble with a plug – if you’re a baker in Sydney and you’d like to buy good plastic bags for your loaves or cakes (and you’re happy to buy 500 at a time for $40), pop into CLC Plastic Bags in Marrickville. Please do mention that I’ve written about them – they won’t know who I am, but it’s always nice to let folks know that their friendly service has been appreciated.
Oh, and tell them that the bags you’re after are the 300mm x 450mm ones, or they might ask you if you’ve brought a sample…
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