Bread is important for any European.
Ever since the moment I left Europe, I have had fits of breadxiety combined with yelling, crying and pure disbelief why people make and eat so crappy bread in the outside world.
Not everybody understands why Europeans get so emotional and snobby about bread. But maybe you can relate to this: my mom was born in the Philippines so I have been lucky enough to have a basic understanding of what rice means to a South-East Asian.
Whenever you meet a Vietnamese, Filipino, Malaysian, … and you would serve them rice they could tell you exactly what they like or dislike about it.
Europeans have similar emotions with bread.
If you’re not from Europe and you spot a group of traveling Europeans talking in French, Polish or any other language you can’t understand, chances are very likely we’re complaining about the bread in your country.
If you spot a group of disorientated European travelers in your town, they most likely got lost trying to find a bakery.
Likewise, if you meet a European and suddenly come at a loss on what to talk about, just ask them if they like the bread in your country. Guaranteed you’ll be told with every possible facial expression and adjective what they think about your bread.
Now, I want to point out that there exists such a thing as gluten-intolerant Europeans and Europeans on gluten-free diets (crazy, right?). My friend Jake Maud is one of those Europeans. If you want to learn all about the GAPS diet it follows to help with it’s autism, find the post here.
Besides the Europeans who are really gluten intolerant, Gluten-free diets are not really popular in Europe. It is because us, Europeans know the truth. Gluten don’t make you sick. You get sick because the bread you’re eating is crap. And crap brings us to this first title: bread categories.
For a European, we classify a loaf into two categories: bread and crap.
Everything that doesn’t qualify as bread automatically classifies as crap.
Now, I know this can be very confusing for non-Europeans to understand because I am sure you’ve heard us refer to certain loafs as being ‘good’ bread and other breads as being ‘okay’. Truth is, there is no such thing as ‘good’ and ‘okay’ bread. There is just bread and crap.
We call a loaf ‘okay’ because we’re very polite and don’t want to hurt your feelings.
For example, say you’re having a European over for dinner and serve them bread. You ask if they like the bread and they answer with a smile ‘yes, it’s good’, it actually translates into ‘this bread is really crap but I really appreciate you sharing your food with me because I am very hungry and I don’t want to offend you by saying that it’s crap.’
When you serve proper bread to a European, you won’t have to ask us anything. Rainbows will be shooting out of our eyes.
Buy Bread like a European.
We have so many types of bread in Europe that I could probably write several different posts for every single country. But I am too lazy for that so I can say that all of us use the techniques I am about to share with you whenever we go shopping for bread in a non-European country.
If you’re not from Europe and looking for bread, please use this as a guideline for your own shopping. If you’re a European that has never traveled outside of the continent, use this technique to recognize potential bread when you travel to distant lands in the future.
Step one: bread wrappings
Wrapping bread in plastic is sacrilege.
Now, I am sure you’ve seen Europeans eating bread that is wrapped in plastic. The reason we do buy it is because we’re on a budget or the alternatives are just not worth the money. But know that every time we buy a loaf wrapped in plastic, a part of us dies.
Bread should be wrapped in a paper bag. We tend to automatically walk away from loafs wrapped in plastic.
Now, does a plastic bag preserve bread better than a paper one?
Probably, but it doesn’t matter. A loaf wrapped up in plastic is automatically classified as crap.
Step two: the finger
In the second step, we poke all the potential loafs to find out the consistency. The rule is: the more the loaf resembles a sponge, the crappier it is. The ideal bread should have a crunchy crust.
If you ever spot someone in the supermarket fingering breads, big chance you are seeing a very confused European. We know it’s not very appetizing for other people when we do it. But don’t judge us too harshly please. Buying bread in a foreign country is a very frustrating process for us. Plus, we feel bad for doing it.
If you can, please direct us to the breads if you know where they are and we will be forever grateful.
Step three: smell it
Bread has a specific smell. I can’t describe the smell in words because we just know it when we smell it.
The smell of bread makes us smile and brings up visions.
- Putting your feet into pre-heated socks on a rainy, autumn day
- Someone waking you up after a sleep-in with fresh coffee
- Diving head first into a swimming pool filled with goose down sleeping bags
- Eating lunch in a medieval castle while you and your friends are dressed up as knights
- Clipping your toenails on the front porch on a warm, summery day
Step four: eat it
This is the ultimate test to know if the loaf is in fact bread or crap. Unfortunately, unless you’re shopping for bread at a farmer’s market, you usually don’t get to taste the bread until you buy it. So, you have to make a decision based on the three previous steps.
Even if you get the three previous steps right it doesn’t guarantee that you’ve bought bread and not crap.
I remember living in a Germanish town in Canada. We had a Swiss bakery in town and I very enthusiastically bought a loaf from them. It had all the characteristics of a bread. But when I ate it, it tasted like I just swallowed a mouthful of seawater.
Special thanks to Roxane, Edouard and Jess, my models for the pictures and for inspiring me to make the Unibread. Because people, you should always play with your food.
Unless you’re hungry.
If that’s the case, you should eat it.