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Friday, June 7, 2013

Bread...the fourth utensil

There is a very real learning curve that happens when you marry someone from another culture.

There may be idiomatic expressions that are embedded within jokes that you may just never get.

There could be a collision of flavor palates, and the habits of day-to-day living may be influenced by how it's always been done...just not necessarily your way.

One funny discovery I made while dating and then marrying my Latin husband was the gross underestimation I had about the role of bread with the daily meal. Growing up, my family occasionally had bread with dinner, and as a somewhat calorie and carb-conscious eater myself, my relationship with bread was almost always a guarded one.  

But my husband loves bread. And who can blame him? He grew up on locally made artisan-style breads, the likes of which get featured in magazines and in windows of corner bakeries...the kind that makes passersby stop and breathe in the aroma of freshly baking bread.

Flour, salt and water, my husband says...it doesn't get more basic than that. And he's right. I suspect that, barring medical necessity, the whole gluten free, low-carb lifestyle has little chance of survival in any Latin household, or at least in our Latin household.

In fact, at our home in Galicia, there is actually a bakery that delivers to the various neighborhoods every day. The driver toots the horn and the neighbors come out with their euros to buy their fresh bread every morning. He will even bring you a cheese and a paper, if you let him know the day before.

La comida perfecta: tortilla española, queso de tetilla, y pan gallego. Delicioso!


Any Latin will probably tell you that a meal is, simply, not a meal without bread.  My husband comes from Spaniards, where bread is used as the fourth utensil. But it's not just the Spaniards. I saw the same phenomenon in Rome with the Italians and in Paris with the French, and in Porto with the Portuguese. Even my Latino middle school-age students unanimously agree that bread is a non-negotiable staple of every meal.

Bread not only complements the meal, but it also sops up the juice and cleans the plate. I have even witnessed my husband dab his chin with the corner of a slice when caldo threatens to drip on his shirt.

"We need something in our hand," my husband says, "Otherwise, it's like something is missing." My suggestion of a knife only got me a raised eyebrow indicating that nothing could be more ridiculous.

A head scratcher like this is part of what makes cross-cultural relationships fun. My unnatural love for baked beans may be a head scratcher for him as well. 

Nevertheless, I still don't eat bread with every meal (except in Spain). But I can't help but smile as I watch my husband and my mother-in-law, bread in hand, wipe with gusto, every last remnant of food or juice from their plate.

It certainly makes clean-up a lot easier.

Un besote...


14 comments:

  1. I enjoyed reading your article! I can relate as my LOVE of bread is over the moon, but carbs put and keep my weight on. It is my make up and so I try to watch my bread. I remember on my vacation in Paris getting hot bread each morning and how happy it made me. I recall as a young teen a friend inviting me to dinner and she was from India. She gave me bread and a stew like meal and no utensils. She demonstrated ripping the bread and using it to scoop the food up and eating it. It was new to me, but oh the fun! So glad you hubby can have his fresh bread daily! I just bought a cookbook called Artisian Bread in an hr, and the bread is fab. (sorry so long!)

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    1. Hi Winnie, thank you so much for your wonderful comments. My husband is right, in that bread is one of those universal items that transcend language and culture barriers. Breaking bread is so fundamental and integral to our interdependence and sense of community. I think I have too much American carb-phobia to truly enjoy it. And as someone who has always struggled with weight, I have the calorie monster taunting me at every turn. I am trying to be of the mindset where moderation is my mantra. I'll get there, and in the meantime, enjoy the bread along the way. See...I think mine is long too. ;-) Thanks again for visiting...your visits and comments are always so appreciated. :-)

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  2. I'm definitely a "bread with every meal" kind of girl, but that's only because I love bread. I could live off of bread and butter if I knew I wouldn't be 600 pounds!!

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    1. Hi J! Welcome! :-) Bread can definitely be a slippery slope, and with butter...bring it. But, everything in moderation. At least, let's hope so. ;-) Thanks so much for visiting and following Besote.

      Your newest follower,
      Kelly

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  3. Definitely agree with the hubby.. as much as I "shouldn't" eat bread, I love it.. probably my favorite food.

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    1. Hi Tree,
      Thanks so much for stopping by. Who can resist bread, especially those artisan breads that smell so good? I say, go for it and enjoy. Everything in moderation, right? Thanks again for visiting Besote. I hope you come back again soon.

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  4. I love bread! especially if it's paired with some delicious pasta, I simply can't resist! It just soaks up all the leftover yummy sauce on the plate :)

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    1. Hi Joan, thank you for stopping by. I couldn't agree more. There's something about pasta and a slice of Italian scali bread that just works. Thanks again for the comments. :-)And welcome to Besote.

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  5. Was working my way backwards a bit and had to comment on this, because YES! my father was exactly this way. Bread with EVERYTHING. It was the ultimate condiment AND utensil. My husband, though, is also this way, and he grew up in rural Vermont, where it was a meal because there wasn't much of anything else. Different reason, same outcome. And it means my house will likely never be gluten-free.

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    1. Nor will mine, Justine. My husband proudly celebrates his "peasant" roots and bread is one of the staples of such a life. It's a good life, indeed. Thanks so much for visiting. I hope you visit again soon. :-)

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  6. The bread is the best part! My grandmother, when we were young, would make skirt steak in an iron skillet with loads of butter. The butter would get brown and after the steak was pulled out, all the grandchildren would rush the stove with our slice of rye bread to take a swipe around the pan. By the time we finished, that pan was spic n' span :).

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    1. Fawn, what a sweet story. :-) Those juices are best. We all stick a fork in our bread and sop up the juices in the serving dish before taking it to the sink. Sometimes, it's the best part. Thanks again for your feedback. It is very appreciated. :-)

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  7. Ah, the bread smell. And I for one would LOVE to have a bread guy come around every morning.

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    1. The smell of bread baking could be one of the best smells known to humanity. No wonder it's popular in every culture.

      The daily visit from the baker is a wonderful treat. And for those folks who are home bound for whatever reason, it's a real service.

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