They began as fishing buddies, then skiing buddies, then running buddies, then baking buddies.
Dan Cole, however, showed up with some killer jam a few weeks ago. Can preserving buddies be far behind?
Each Saturday for the past 20 years, Jeff Grosscup, Jim Patrykus, Jim Martin and Cole have gone for a morning run, then ended up at one of their houses for some potent coffee and homemade breads. They haven’t all been there each week, but no week has gone unrun. A couple of wives have joined along the way. The tradition has, well, legs.
And machines. Each of the men bakes with a bread machine. Each has a different model. Each has a specialty bread.
“I got a bread machine for Christmas and, of course, it sat in the basement for a couple of years, like most do,” Grosscup said. “When I finally tried it, the aroma of baking bread permeated the house and I never looked back.”
The men enjoy a vigorous competition with their loaves.
Martin’s raisin bread is considered the best of its kind. Somehow, his single cup of raisins ends up looking more dense than anyone else can manage. Cole is always trying to make his bread healthier, subbing in oatmeal, using memory-boosting coconut oil instead of canola, and larding it with walnuts whenever possible. Grosscup isn’t far behind, with a cracked-wheat loaf that manages to be both light and hearty. Patrykus likes the control of home baking; his pannetone recipe even includes directions for candying your own orange peel.
Their Saturdays are about more than bread. Group members have mastered the ability to air political differences with humor and respect. They compare opinions on movies, restaurants and books. But they’re just as likely to quiz each other about which setting results in the most attractively burnished crust.
Grosscup noted an Australian study’s findings that people with wide networks of good friends and confidantes live 20 percent longer than those with fewer friends. “Friends give you a broader perspective on life,” he said. (Researchers at the Flinders University Centre for Ageing Studies in Adelaide found that friends are even more important than families for longevity.)
The runners range in age from 65 to 74, and while they all began jogging in south Minneapolis, their routes have changed as some have moved to downtown Minneapolis or Bloomington. Geography alone could have jinxed the group, but fresh bread kept them together. They can get positively philosophical about it.
“You have to be willing to fail — that goes for bread, as well as life,” said Patrykus.
Karin Grosscup, a spouse who also runs (and eats), summed up the group’s appeal this way: “When the weather is averse and you still run, it helps with the denial of death,” she said, half-laughing. “Our heels are in the ground and we want to slow things down.”
Mastering the elements, then returning for a meal of simple sustenance has worked for 20 years. “It’s been a great run,” Grosscup said. It’s not over yet.