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Heavenly Baking
Clarence Wong worships pastries baked by a French nun making money to feed the poor.

By Clarence Wong

Impatiently, I wait all week for Sunday to arrive so I can have a moment with her. I run up to where she stands, breathless and weak-kneed. "What do you have for me today?" I ask. With an elegant turn of her wrist, she motions to the table in front of her piled high with butter cookies, apple cakes and almond tarts.
 
I remember my first time. Amidst the sea of shoppers at the farmers market, I catch a glimpse of her standing ramrod straight, dark robe falling neatly to her ankles, silver cross gleaming in the morning light. A nun at the farmers market is an unusual sight. A French nun selling exquisite cookies and pastries is a rapturous vision.
 
I learn the market stand is a way to make money to support a soup kitchen in the Tenderloin. Started in 2008, the soup kitchen serves 300 meals a day, several days a week. Beset with shrinking government budgets and a deepening economic recession, the nuns took matters into their own hands. They swept back their wimples, rolled up their sleeves, and started a bakery business.  
 
Their cookies are no ordinary bake sale goodies. Their pastries are worthy of any gourmet patisserie in Paris. These cakes are not guilty pleasures; indeed, they support a good cause.  
 
It is said the House of God has many rooms. Some are large and grand, others dark and forbidding. As heavenly mansion rooms go, this market stand is small and humble, the size of a closet, but one filled with warm smells, good tastes and big hearts.  
 
I am not a religious man, but ever since I glimpsed the nun and tasted the pastries, I have converted to her brand of divinity. On Sunday mornings, I worship at her linen-covered table from which she sells cakes and cookies to make money to feed the poor.

With a Perspective, I'm Clarence Wong.

Clarence Wong lives in San Francisco and works at a community health center in Oakland Chinatown.

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