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California Legalized Selling Food Made at Home and Created over a Thousand Local Businesses

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A government official appears at a man's door.  The man has been breaking the law: He has sold bread baked at home.

This isn't a page from Kafka-it happened to Mark Stambler in Los Angeles.

For decades, Stambler has followed traditional methods to bake loaves of French bread.  The ingredients are simple: distilled water, sea salt, wild yeast and organic grains.  Stambler even mills the grain himself.  To make it easier to steam loaves, he built a wood-fired oven in his own backyard.  Stambler's loaves came in first place at the Los Angeles County Fair and the California State Fair.

Soon after that, Stambler got the idea to expand his hobby into a home business, which became Pagnol Boulanger.  Word of mouth spread.  In June 2011, The Los Angeles Times profiled Stambler and his bread in a full-page feature. 

Unlike his bread, that profile was bittersweet.  He was busted the very next day.  As he described it, the health department "descended like a ton of bricks on the two stores that were selling my bread they could no longer sell my bread."

An inspector from the health department even showed up at his doorstep to make sure "no bread baking was taking place."  For the next 18 months, Pagnol Boulanger was forced to go on hiatus.

That's when he "became an activist," Stambler said in an email interview.       


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