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<   No. 3318   2014-02-09   >

Comic #3318

1 {photo of bread}
1 Caption: Notre Pain Quotidien

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Le Pain Quotidien
Mmmm.
Like last week, I am physically in San Francisco as this comic goes to air, so I'm writing this well in advance. I will have spent a week at the Electronic Imaging conference, and now I am spending a week of leisure with my wife, who is travelling with me.

Another great thing about travel is the food. Everything is different when you travel overseas (unless you visit McDonalds, but why do that?). Even something as commonplace as the bread is different. I remember my first trip to San Francisco, around 1991, and the first time I ever tasted sourdough bread. Such a thing was impossible to find in Australia at the time, and I'd never even heard of it before.

Nowadays sourdough has become fashionable in Australia. I even saw an article the other week saying it had become too common and it is time to get over it and move on to other types of bread. But the sourdough here doesn't taste the same as sourdough in San Francisco. It always seems more genuine and... just... better there. Perhaps it's rose coloured glasses and the memory of that first amazing bite when I had no idea what I was going to taste, but still, when in San Francisco I take the opportunity to feast on sourdough and it always tastes better than any I can get at home.

It's similar with bagels. One year I spent a couple of months on the east coast of the USA. I was spending some time working at the Space Science Telescope Institute in Baltimore (the place that runs the Hubble Space Telescope), followed by a stint at Princeton University, then a week in Boston visiting friends. That trip was my introduction to bagels - also at that time virtually unknown in Australia. And delicious they were.

Baguettes
(Ignore the chocolate tart...)
Like sourdough, bagels have since been introduced to Australia. And, like sourdough, they are a pale imitation of the ones in the USA. I've tried many, but nobody here seems to be able to make them the same, fresh and dense and chewy.

Lest this turn into a celebration of bread in America - then there is the bread of Germany. Now Germans, they know how to make bread. Dark with rye and thick with seeds and grains, this is bread that can turn a simple sandwich or even just a bowl of soup into a meal. A German bakery is a thing of wonder, with so many variations to be sampled and so many wonderful flavours and textures. Contrast the fluffy white bread with a crisp crust that is a French baguette - delicious in its own way when filled with brie. Then there is focaccia and ciabatta of Italy, the various types of pita bread of the Middle East, naan and roti from India, and injera from Ethiopia. All delicious when done authentically. There are many more types of bread from around the world than I can list - these are just some of my favourites.

And Australia has its contribution too. Damper can be thrown together quickly and easily from just flour, water, a pinch of salt, and some baking soda. The resulting dough is tossed into a campfire. And the best way to eat it is hot from the fire, surrounded by nothing but the Aussie bush as you rest after a hard day of trekking, the sound of the crackling fire and buzzing insects filling the night sky as you relax beneath a canopy of stars, with the hot damper dripping with golden syrup.

Oh my goodness. Now I'm hungry.

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Last Modified: Sunday, 9 February 2014; 02:10:30 PST.
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