There was only one other family in the bakery when we entered. A rotund man with orange hair, a young boy who was maybe twelve or so, and a grandma type. The man looked very familiar, but in that way that people start to look familiar Up North, like maybe he sold you bait over the summer or he teaches organ at Interlochen and didn't that girl Megan take private lessons with him when you were thirteen? There are not a lot of strangers here, especially when in the dead period between Christmas and the New Year and the ski resorts are all empty because it's forty degrees and dry as a bone out.
We sampled the pesto hummus on the counter and instantly decided we had to have it. I followed Jen as she picked a container from the fridge next to the family. I definitely knew the man from somewhere...
Wait a minute. No, it couldn't be. Why the hell would he be in a bakery in small-town Northern Michigan? Shouldn't he be braising pigs' trotters in Puglia or something?
I not-at-all-subtly peeked down for the telltale sign. Sure enough.
But no, it had to be a coincidence. No one remotely famous ever comes to this part of the world. I mean sure, Tom Selleck and Tim Allen have cabins here, but that's because we have lots of woods full of things to shoot and long straight roads where you can drive all coked out and never get pulled over. And sure, Jeff Daniels lives in Michigan because he hates Hollywood and loves the Midwest and a fun part of growing up where I did is selling him Girl Scout cookies. And yes, Demi Moore sent her daughter to the Academy for a hot minute, but apart from her one very random visit to the Interlochen Public Library, it's not like she ever spent a lot of time hanging out with the locals, snackin on pesto hummus and calling the baker by her first name. Celebrities don't do that. They're not normal. They hang out in their celebrity pod worlds, where everyone is very beautiful and very short and is so over being famous, like, it's such a pain. Except for Chris Noth, who was unexpectedly tall and has lost the weight and was in a very loud conversation about a ski trip in January in the middle of 41st Street. But I digress.
By this time Jen had noticed too. She probably couldn't help but, since I was at this point flat staring. I wasn't gawking, I was just really, really confused.
Back at the counter she stage-whispered "Is that...?" in a manner that was the exact opposite of smooth. We were still maybe seven feet from the family, and I'm sure they heard exactly what was transpiring. "I'm not... no, can't be..." I muttered back.
Suddenly the son was at my elbow to pay the cashier and I noticed that his t-shirt was from a Clinton Foundation event. And, because I have been in Washington for entirely too long, that's when I finally realized it really was him. Because no twelve-year-old in Leland, Michigan would be wearing a Clinton Foundation t-shirt unless he was the son of someone famous.
"Merry Whatever and Happy Whatsitsdoodle, Mary!" The orange man suddenly joined his son at the counter and ushered his family out as he waved to the cook and her assistant. As soon as the door shut behind them Jen and I gawped first at one another, then at Mary.
"So, um..." Jen asked, "was that who I think it was?"
"Oh yah, sure!" Mary replied. "He only uses our bread when he's baking here and does all sortsa charity events in the area. He's very particular about using local ingredients, dontcha know?"
Our mom looked at us as if we were nuts. "You girls could watch Food Network all day!" she said. "How did you not know that Mario Batali lives up here?"
Um, because we're normal and assume that all famous people live in New York and LA?
But whatever. That totally made up for not getting reservations at Babbo earlier this month. And Internet, aren't you proud that I didn't rush after him and ask him if Raechel Ray is that annoying in person? Because I really kind of wanted to.