Originally published on SBS.
From classic bagels to cashew cream schmears and Anzac biscuits, Hobart’s Bury Me Standing is inspired by its owners’ cultural roots.
Hobart cafe Bury Me Standing wasn’t born from a longtime dream, it happened fortuitously. It’s run by Alesha Peckels, who hails from Minnesota, and her Queensland-born husband Cohen Bassingthwaighte.
“I’ve worked in hospitality since I was 14 years old. I really enjoy talking to people, baking, making coffee, everything about it!” says Peckels. “When an opportunity arose at ABC Studios Hobart, I put forth an application with Cohen, and they accepted it. That was the beginning of Bury Me Standing.”
That was back in 2011; Bury Me Standing nowadays is permanently located at “our big beautiful home base at 83-85 Bathurst Street”, she says. Visitors can also find their bagels and pastries at Salamanca Market, too.
Bury Me Standing draws a cult following for its bagels and sweet treats and predominantly pays tribute to Peckels’ Minnesotan roots and Polish heritage.
At the start, Peckels did a great deal of “recipe negotiating” with her family members back home in Minnesota to strengthen Bury Me Standing’s offering. “Cohen and I have evolved some old recipes into our own and created others,” Peckels says.
Bagels are king, made the traditional way – pot-boiled and baked. “Cohen had never made bagels before, neither had I. But I knew exactly what they were supposed to be like,” she says. “I would tell him if the bagels were too big or too small or too hard, but he pretty much researched their origins and possible recipes … figured it out all on his own. I was his bagel critic!”
Bury Me Standing has the classic bagels, of course, but more adventurous versions, too, such as the gingerbread and hot cross bun flavours, and the Top Notch bagel with cashew jalapeño schmear, pickles and cracked pepper. Schmears come in the forms of house-whipped cream cheese and a popular cashew cream – a dairy-free offering that many non-vegan visitors end up preferring.
There are plenty of intriguing things to choose from other than bagels, such as the Peckels bakkas – the store’s signature offering.
“The bakkas are my family’s version of fried white brioche tossed in cinnamon sugar. We used to eat them a lot back home; [they were] made fresh during big family get-togethers.”
She isn’t sure whether the name comes from, as ‘bakkas’ isn’t a standard Polish word. But her uncle asked neighbours and friends what they called fried bread dipped in sugar (or cinnamon), “and he’s heard others use the word bakka, too,” says Peckels. “There is a Polish sweet bread called ‘babka’ where it may have come from, though we don’t use chocolate in our bakkas.”
One relative told her “you have to sell the bakkas in packs of three as people will want one in each hand, and then someone will ask them for another to eat themselves”, she says, with a laugh.
When it comes to the mid-western influence, the cafe serves up pecan slices, dill plaits, and rye molasses and oat cob, inspired by an old diner in northern Minnesota.
“Cohen had never made bagels before, neither had I. But I knew exactly what they were supposed to be like.”
Bassingthwaighte’s Australian roots are not left behind, represented in the form of Anzac biscuits, beetroot bagels and seasonal hot cross bagels. “We’re hoping to get his lamingtons back on the menu soon, too!” says Peckels. Although the majority of offerings are inspired by her Polish-Minnesotan family, “the place wouldn’t exist without Cohen”, she adds. “He bakes the bagels, bread, croissants, and brioche desserts, and he is amazing at it. He is teaching our bakers how he does it, and is an excellent guide in the kitchen.”
Because the couple lives in a vegetarian and vegan household, the entire menu reflects this. “There are lots of vegan offerings: brownies, chocolate mud cakes, pecan slice, chocolate croissants, cinnamon rolls, bakkas,” she says. Peckels is currently working on a date and cardamom slice to honour her aunty Tootie, “who loved Grandma Peckels’s date bars and a cup of black coffee more than anything”.
“Colin has also created his own vegan brioche recipe, vegan croissants and vegan cinnamon rolls, which are all great.”
“I would tell him if the bagels were too big or too small or too hard, but he pretty much researched their origins and possible recipes … figured it out all on his own. I was his bagel critic!”
“There is quite a large community of vegetarian and vegans in Tasmania. It would be nice to see more food places offer a larger variety to the public. In saying that, being in Tasmania, we find we have trouble accessing larger quantities of vegan-friendly cream cheese, vegan deli slices, etc, which can also limit local menus.”
Sustainability is at the forefront of the cafe’s mind, too. “We’ve always aimed to only use compostable packing. We also stopped selling single-use bottled drinks a few years ago now, too.”
This thinking carries through to the hyper-local nature of sourcing ingredients. The couple’s children, Arganius (who is nine) and Astrid (who is six), also help with picking things like blueberries and blackberries from local farms for the store’s creations.
Speaking of the kids (“they’re our biggest critics!”) Peckels says the pepperoni bagel is their favourite sandwich. On the sweeter side, they also enjoy the bakkas and chocolate croissants.
In addition to the main cafe, Bury Me Standing continues to run a cart at Salamanca Market if you find yourself there on a Saturday, and if you visit Farm Gate Market on a Sunday, you’ll notice Bury Me Standing’s shopfront located nearby.
83-85 Bathurst Street, Hobart
Featured image: supplied.