A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Un Pan De Dios
Thursday, March 27, 2008

Riding the B-Line bus on Broadway to teach my class at Focalpoint on 10th Avenue I was startled by the sign Transilvania Peasant Bread near Collingwood. I decided that one day I would stop and have a look. I wanted to know if the baker was Hungarian or Romanian. As Erdély, Transylvania was Hungarian until recent times. This area which means beyond the forest in Latin is now Romanian. Yesterday I finally satisfied my curiousity.

The pleasant baker that greeted me in the cozy brick oven store had mostly empty shelves with only five loaves of the Sprouted Wheat Bread to testify that I was indeed in a bakery. Florin Moldovan told me he was Romanian and the brochure he handed me stated that Transilvania (with an i and not with a y as the Romans did not have a y) Peasant Bread bakes only two other varieties besides the one I purchased. These are the Peasant Bread and a Light Rye Bread.

A woman arrived, an obvious steady client who was disappointed not to find her favourite Peasant Bread on the shelf. She bought the Sprouted Wheat Bread and told me I would like mine. This I did as I ate approximately one third of the still warm loaf on my way home.

The whole pleasant affair made me think of bread. It made me think of bread in my native language - Spanish. I realized that even though bread plays an important role in all cultures it plays an innordinate role in my Spanish language.

Consider the word for baker in Spanish is panadero. That means one who sells or bakes bread. In English your baker could bake pies beside bread, pan. We are more bread specific in Spanish! Since bread and water are obvious necessities for our survival the surname Pan y Agua (modernized to Paniagua) has been in existence since the 16th century. The surname originated in the province of León where it spread to Extremadura from whence it came to the New World in the ships of conquistadors like Cortez and Pizarro who were from Extremadura.

Un pan de dios, (literally bread from God) is not equivalent to manna from heaven. In Spanish it describes a kindly person who will do anything to help those in need. There are many more expressions in Spanish with pan in them. My favourite is pan comido (bread that has been eaten). It means that a particular activity or job is an easy job to accomplish. Easy as pie?

When we first came to Canada 37 years ago we missed the tasty Mexican bolillo similar to the Argentine flauta (flute) or what we would call French bread. When we lived in Arboledas I used to buy bolillo dough at a nearby bakery to make the best pizza ever. I never told Rosemary what makes the bolillos in some Mexican bakeries saltier than in others. They say that bakers, who sweat lots being near the hot ovens usually bake topless. Sweat runs down and they wipe it off with the dough they are kneading.

The only bread that had any kind of taste was a Safeway brand of Dutch Crunch Bread. Everything else tasted of cardboard to us. It tasted of that Mexican white bread called Bimbo.

Bimbo, pan Bimbo
¡Hay! Que re-rico
Es el pan Bimbo.

Now I would challenge anybody who would say that a good loaf of bread cannot be found in Vancouver. Rosemary particularly loves the Safeway brand of medias lunas or croissants. I favour the IGA pizza bagels.

And with my discovery of Transilvania Peasant Bread on 3474 West Broadway it has never been more evident.

In the evening when Rebecca and I went to Opera Sushi I was only able to have a miso soup. The bread had filled me. Taking Rebecca home, she asked, "Can you put the Dracula music?" I knew exactly what she meant. I turned on the CD player and we listened to Bach's Toccata in D minor for organ. That piece of organ music is as much the bread of life as Florin Moldovan's loaves.


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