Bread is the ingredient that always reminds me that I am not from here. I have been living in the United States for more than 18 years and I have yet to understand why in this country such a staple food, made with the same ingredients all over the world – flour and water – is three or four times more expensive. I can buy a loaf of bread in Spain for less than $1.50 while the same kind here would cost me no less than $4.
Bread has always been an essential component of Spanish life. Going to the bakery is an experience that all Spaniards can relate to. At the Panadería we catch up about life with our neighbors, talk about the world’s events and forge new friendships. It would be strange to be invited to a Spanish table and not be served a loaf of bread with every meal.
In Spain we not only eat bread, we think bread.
The Spanish language is filled with expressions that include the word bread – Pan – to describe very important life moments. For instance, if we are about to face a new challenge we express encouragement by saying Pan Comido – piece of cake. The expression to tell your loved one that you will be there in good times and in bad times is Contigo Pan y Cebolla – literally translated as “I only need bread and onions with you.”
Back in the States, having to choose from the many bread flavors and types is the moment of my shopping I dread the most. Do I get French bread or whole wheat? Maybe a loaf with raisins? No olives! But last week they had it with walnuts!
My bread mind collapses. Where am I? Do I dare to touch it to see if it has gone hard by the time I buy it? No I want to deny my reality. Facing so many options so I am still missing an essential taste of basic life.
Unconsciously, I put end to this dilemma and grab a ciabatta and a loaf of sourdough. I have now turned my critical bread mind off. As I leave the store I notice that the further away I get from bread in America the more I belong here!
– Gemma Cubero