Monday, 15 November 2021

In praise of bread. Less so of desserts.

The Spanish have an expression: Bueno como el pan. Literally it means “as good as bread”. It’s their equivalent of the English “as good as gold”. Does it say something about the national character? The English must be very materialistic on that score, valuing goodness monetarily. Whereas the Spanish make the comparison with one of the basic essentials of life.

After all, it’s there in the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread.”

In various accounts of the French Revolution, I have read about the riots that ensued when the people were not able to get their bread. Good old Marie-Antoinette (there she is again!) is supposed to have said, “Let them eat cake?”, probably because that’s what she would have done if no bread was available. She probably thought everyone had diamond necklaces as well. A sort of childlike naivety there!

And it has to be said that good bread is a delight. Our daughter has fond memories of “those Vigo breakfasts”, when she and the children would go with me to buy fresh bread every morning. This morning I managed to get our breakfast bread from the usual bakers, after two days of inferior breakfasts. I have a German friend who brings suitcases full of German black bread back to the UK after her visits to Germany. She freezes it in her mother’s freezer, packs it in her suitcase and then pops it in the freezer when she gets back to England. Needless to say, it has to go in her hold luggage. I can’t say I appreciate the German bread myself but I suppose she grew up eating it. And we almost all like what is familiar and nostalgic. 

It used to be the case that bread came as a standard accompaniment to meals here with no extra charge in restaurants. Now some charge for it. And certainly in Portugal it was a regular thing for bread to appear as na item on your bill. I suppose every little helps!

That’s enough about bread, for the time being anyway!

We had a bit of a discussion about desserts with our cruise ship friends yesterday. The men turned down the idea of dessert altogether but we ladies agreed that you have a separate stomach for puddings. I’m afraid that the choice of desserts was not great though - a small failing in an otherwise excellent restaurant. They had no “flan” - crème caramel - who h was a great surprise as it is usually on everyone. Our friend was disappointed but was persuaded by the waiter to have “natillas” as the closest thing. I had my doubts, “natillas” being custard. And that’s what she got, a bowl of cold custard, sprinkled with cinnamon! Acceptable if you like custard. “Arroz con leche” was also on offer but personally I have never found any rice pudding style dessert to match the standards set long ago by my mother. As for me, I opted for cheesecake, another mistake as I make a much better cheesecake myself! So it goes. 

We’ve been back to the Rosalía Castro restaurant again today, this time with our Pontevedra friend, Colin. I deliberately didn’t have my favourite “chipirones encebollados”, baby squid cooked with caramelised onions, yesterday as I was saving that treat for today. It will be the last time I’ll eat it for a while, I guess. 

And now we’re back to finalising the packing.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone. 

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