It is another Monday morning. The start of a new week. I hopped on my bike and rode to the next town in a cool fog. Since I am a rocket science genius, I forgot my gloves and now I get to see if I can type with what feels like two blocks of ice on my hands. Some days I can be so intelligent! :o)
In the United States, the idea of good bread seemed to have died out when I was a small kid, it all gave way to economies of scale and mega-bakers. In my fathers generation he mentioned there was community bread ovens in the coal town. The only fresh bread I really ever was close to was when Easter would come around and mom would make the special “pascha” bread.
Yes, this particular bread falls into the category of all things Slavic that I had to eat as a small boy. Each holiday we would pile into the car, go visit both sets of grandparents, have a full meal where some truly interesting sociological eating habits and traditions were demonstrated. All followed by me getting carsick on the way home. What fun!
So where I grew up, we had white bread that probably has the nutritional value of a piece of cardboard and I never understood my father getting a huge smile on his face whenever someone at his church gave him a loaf of bread for helping them in some way.
That is, till I started doing European tours and had to adjust what breakfast was in most of the world and got to sample breads of a different sort. They were delicious.
It was one summer when I helped a friend redo their Paris apartment that I truly understood what great bread was all about. While I truly love croissants, I think my friend had a cash flow moment and the food tasted so good because we really didn’t have much to work with for budgets for supplies and food. We compensated in time and sweat equity.
The problem in Paris is that each bakery is known to specialize in a certain type of bread.
The second problem was that the location of this place was a block from the Eifel tower and near a street with several of the best bakeries in Paris. So aside from an idyllic view out the window to work, I also got stuck making this walk, based on the time of the morning as to which bakeries I would go to, as well as what I would buy.
As I type, I can still remember being at the one bakery at a certain time that I learned was Rustic Baguette time. I would show up to the shop, watch the baker brink up a basket of warm rustic baguettes and take all my strength not to eat any of the still warm break on the way back to the apartment.
A little dab of butter and pretty much all of the breads were a bit of heaven on earth.
Paris is where I learned to really appreciate great bread, pastries, art and cooking.
My problem is in Switzerland. They might not be known for a wild or varied cuisine, but they do make good breads. The issue is that less than 25 yards out the door, is a neighborhood bakery.
Yes, if I chose to, I could go in each and every morning, and stare at a wall of freshly made, unique, different and delicious breads and rolls.
How do I decide to purchase on of the many varieties of bread? In broken German I ask the young ladies who make it, “what is best today?”
“They are all good” is usually the response.
“But if you could only eat one, which would it be?” I would ask
At first they thought I was a lunatic American, but then they realized I was truly asking for their help and advise. Some days you would see two of them having a debate over which they think were best.
Then they would walk over, pick up a loaf, place it in a little bag and write the price on it for the cashier to ring up in the front.
I have yet to have one bad bite of any bread in Switzerland. I think it is because the apprentice or trade school system thrives here. The other thing is that people don’t judge you by what you do, drive, or possess. It is a lesson I wish America would re-learn and bring back from the past.
The problem with that idea is that it would mean that a few would have to give up much so that the many could have a livable life. The statistics in Europe are that in most of the EU countries, one can have a fair quality of life with the wage they receive. In the United States, the quality of life only goes so far as the trust fund wealthy mom and dads pass on to their kids. The poor simply are getting poorer inside the USA and I think politicians are using them as pawns in the census and voting world.
With respect to breads, you can find a few amazing bakeries in the united states, but they seem to be relegated to wealthy neighborhoods who don’t mind or have any problem paying more for quality food. I have noticed some of the supermarkets moving more towards improving the availability of fresh baked goods, but I have to say something must be different in the skill, ingredients or techniques – the Swiss stuff is truly amazing.
I don’t get to see the young ladies at the bakery much anymore. I realized eating a loaf of fresh bread for breakfast is not great for weight reduction, so now, I go in for my oatmeal, and a few times a week I say hello and get some.
Now the issue is that fall slaughter (metzegette? Means fresh meat) has happened and that only means cooler weather is coming.
Yes, fondue and Raclette season! Melted cheese on bread and other foods! Then you have all these home made schnapps of nuts, apricots and various fruits that are actually pretty decent.
The Swiss hearty diet is really wonderful to eat. I notice there are many Swiss that have an aversion to vegetables and instead you get more dairy products – the cheeses and they butters for bread is delicious. They are so good that they literally stick to your waistline.
How is that for a rationalization for eating too much?
They ask, “why are Americans so fat?”
“Because the only exercise we get anymore is pushing the button to roll down the window to raise our left hand to grab the take out bag at the local fast food drive through.”
It is a bit sad when I think of the size of people in my home country and the health issues that are almost self inflicted via bad habits. But that is the reality of what we have become. While you can eat a high quality diet in the United States, it will cost a bit of money. You can live off an inexpensive low quality diet very easily. It is almost a high fructose, sugar and lard type diet. Yes, it tastes good from the fat, but it isn’t very healthy.
What is ironic is that a slice of fresh bread with some butter and honey – is almost like a dessert, but quite a bit healthier.
Now I go prepare myself for the ever-thrilling moment in my life called “German class” where I do my best to understand a language that makes little sense to me. Perhaps that is why the long ramble about bread.
Either that or I am hungry now from typing about it? Have a great day...german class is starting. i should just broadcast the look on my face and sell tickets.