Bread & Chocolate – A travel series on local bread traditions and popular chocolate.
“Man cannot live on bread alone.”
Well I can when it comes to travel. Bread along with chocolate are 2 of the things I crave most when I’m on the road; my daily diet doesn’t seem complete without a bit of either. This has spawned yet another series entitled Bread & Chocolate, a series that will chronicle my adventures with bread and chocolate abroad on a predominantly vegan diet. Welcome to the inaugural post. Here is how it all began.
It’s official. I have become a bread nerd. I was on my rounds walking and photographing whatever caught my eye in Santiago de Cuba, the second largest city in the country. I happened upon an open bakery and started salivating at the bread machine and antiquated dough hook doing their rounds. The cigarette smoke of the staff mingled with the flour dust and the smell of freshly baked bread permeated the air. This was bread in Cuba.
White bread in Cuba is king, ironic considering that refined flour was formerly reserved for the rich with lots of time on their hands. The labour intensive process to produce white flour was the domain of the leisurely wealthy but today it is the flour that makes bread for the masses.
Spanish to English translation
panaderia y pan = bakery and bread
Cuban bread is similar to French and Italian bread. Its defining characteristic is the use of lard/shortening in the dough. It is often made into loaves and rolls but you can also get differently shaped bread such as the pan enciamada, a bun formed in snail-like fashion. Typically Cuban bread is used to make the Cuban sandwich, basically ham and cheese on white.
My Cuban bread experience consisted of taking numerous photos of bread sellers in the street and having my incisors dive into soft baked dough first thing every morning. After the umpteenth loaf of white bread, however, my love affair with bread was over until I saw the brown rolls in Camaguey. This UNESCO city had a bakery just off one of the main squares. Be still my heart – could it be actual whole grain?
I thought so and it could have even been sourdough too (though more likely it was bread about to grow some green fuzz.) I barely made my way through the half-dozen rolls that I bought before I had to discard the rest due to a ‘mould’ situation.
And now for the chocolate. I’ll keep this brief as I will have many more chocolate posts to come.
In terms of chocolate Baracoa is where it’s at. It is the cacao capital of Cuba. Located in the eastern part of the island, Baracoa is slightly off the beaten tourist trail. It was the former capital of this country and the first place Columbus landed when he came to Cuba.
In Baracoa you will find many chocolate things: a cacao plantation open for tours, 2 chocolate cafés and the Che Guevera Chocolate Factory. Yes the Che established this factory in his position as Industry Minister in order to bolster the economy of Baracoa. The factory still remains but it is not open to tourists.