Skip to main content

Stale Bread Before its Time


Writing in the local paper. Local issues with a global take. I never translate literally and the editor trims at will to make it fit. Here's my version, then theirs.

My father-in-law, a wise and decent man from a small village in the northwestern corner of Extremadura called San Martin de Trevejo, tells a tale from years ago, climbing the mountains that surround his village. It was early in the morning and they walked into a bar to pick up some bread to go with the homemade chorizo they were carrying with them. The barmaid was happy to serve them coffee but told them that there was no bread because it was still in bed. This seemed a bit odd but his brother-in-law, who was never short of words quickly retorted, ‘well tell it to get up’! This was obviously years ago when life was perhaps simpler and people, and the bread they ate, got more rest. Here in Extremadura, you invariably sit down to wonderful foods dripping in divine sauces that beg to be swept clean from your plate but when you look around for the appropriate tool for the job, you almost always find the most uninspiring companion. Festering in the basket next to you, you find a supposedly wheat-based product boasting the visual appeal of a bleached sock that dusts your palate like a spoonful of dry bread crumbs. Dress them up as Italian chapatas, sprinkle them with a bit of flour and call them 'rusticos', or even claim they have been fired with loving care in a wood stove in a quaint nearby village, but the end result is always the same, the gastronomic equivalent of elevator music. A recent tour through France reminded me of what bread can be. The Gaul’s have started a movement to reintroduce ‘real’ bread, golden, crusty loaves that retain their aroma when cool and whose crusts beg to be enjoyed rather than amputated and thrown to the dogs. Lovely yet, irregularly shaped pieces of art that, when opened, reveal uneven cavities made to order to clean your dish. And in true French style, this tradition has even been enshrined by law. But there’s no need even to travel so far, in neighboring Portugal, which lies about 100kms away, they have a popular refrain, 'Only in Hell is soup served without bread' and by bread they mean something that accompanies the dish rather than the disguised cracker sold as pan de pueblo all over this region. In a city that takes its rest seriously, regulating noise limits during the summer siesta hours, even today, perhaps it’s time to not only stop musicians from keeping up the neighbours but also insist that our daily bread gets some rest too. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The 10 Best Places to Swim...?

I read a post the other day listing the 10 best places to swim around the world. Reading through them I realized that I hadn't been to even one of them!

Poor me, but then I thought, wait...I've swum in some lovely places.

Let's narrow them down to 3 in no particular order.

Ginnie Springs, High Springs, Northern Florida


If northern Florida wasn't interesting enough in its own time travel way, these springs are perfect. It's a surreal place to swim among the Spanish moss while the alligators patrol out in the warmer river that the springs flow into (the big toothy grins don't like the cooler water).

Bir Ali, Yemen


Yemen never makes it onto the glossy Caribbean style travel brochures, but the emerald green of the Arabian Sea is a mighty match for hurricane alley. Just outside the town of Bir Ali you can camp on a deserted white sandy beach that seems to extend all the way down to Aden. Behind you the sands of the beach meet and mingle with those of the desert on the vol…

The Statue of Liberated Woman

Last night's Minaret exhibit was not only a chance to share some photos that I've taken on my travels but an opportunity to retrieve and relive some dusty memories that had been lying forgotten in my 1.0 memory chip mind.

During the evening, a few astute visitors were quick to notice an early Soviet-era statue that features prominently in one of the photographs, thus refreshing my memory in regards to one of my favourite emblems in Baku, Azerbaijan.

While living in the city, my wife and I lived just off Nizami square/Metro stop in the infamous 'Beysh Barmak'. Baku's first 5-story building (thus the name) that was stodgily yet sturdily built during the years of Russian rule. The window panes hadn't been changed since the 5 year plans, allowing the winter wind free access to the flat, but it was a handy address that every taxi driver knew...especially given the fact that I speak no Azeri or Russian, no matter how much vodka I drank.

At the time we lived there (2004-…

A Bit of Iranian Know-How for Semana Santa

Writing in the local paperLocal issues with a global take. I never translate literally and the editor trims at will to make it fit. Here's my version, then theirs.

Long before San (saint) Obama’s time and the recent thaws, I recall sitting at a cafĂ© in one of the posher neighbourhoods of northern Tehran. Heavy snow still sat up above us on the Alborz mountains, its run off rushing by between the towering green trees that lined the streets that snaked downhill towards the jungle of that huge city. Like now, spring was just around the corner. Young people sat all around us smoking quaylans and drinking tea, unsuccessfully trying to conceal the fact that there was more going on than tea drinking. Religiously obligatory head scarves miraculously clung from the very backs of the heads of the heavily made up young women while the young men pushed the limits of the acceptable length of hair that they could wear. True, they were afraid that the dreaded religious police, the Ershad, might…