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The local school kids were having a money-making drive for something or other (they were terribly shy when they realized I was 'etranger'). Instead of magazines, candles or cookies, these French kids get right back to basics: Bread.
Did you know that, by law, there has to be at least one French bakery open on Sunday within each, rather small, geographical area? I mean, we have to be able to get our daily bread! Baguettes are only considered edible for about 6 hours after they're baked so one cannot buy in advance, say, the day before.
The young lads were around 2 weeks earlier to take orders. They were only selling croissant and pan au chocolat. I couldn't hardly just buy one of each, now, could I? We heard them in our little hamlet in the wee hours before dawn Sunday morning, leaving these freshly baked, still warm treasures on window sills and, in our case, hanging in a 'sac' from the garden gate. How nice that the local 'femmes du foyer' did not have to get up and out to the bakery early to pick up the croissants for the family breakfast. Croissant and a big bowl of coffee with milk are still standard breakfast fare!
The Spaniards prefer a savory breakfast. In Catalonia, which
borders almost surrounds Andorra a typical breakfast was Pa amb Tomàquet (Tomato Bread) either alone, with Iberian Ham or the ever-present Escalivada.
Escalivar means to cook in hot ashes. Escalivada is eggplant (aubergine) and red peppers roasted in hot ash, skinned, pulled into strips and drizzled with good olive oil. It may or may not have tomatoes, garlic and onions added. It is everywhere and with everything in Catalonia: from the breakfast sandwich to garnishes on omelets to a bowl for nibbling at a tapas bar.
This platter of escalivada was made by our friend in Spain in honor of our visit. He uses his 'stove'; not a cooking stove (which is a 'hob') but a wood-burning heater for his house. He tucks the vegetables inside the stove between the grate and the door, turning them every half hour or so. They're done when the skin is black and wrinkled
…however long that takes. When they are cool enough to touch he brushes/peels the skin off, pulls the vegetables into strips and puts them on a platter. Pour some good olive oil over all and it's done.
Pa amb Tomàquet (Tomato Bread)
2 thick slices hearty, country bread
1 very flavorful tomato There are special tomatoes grown for this in Catalonia
1 garlic clove
2 tbs olive oil, the good stuff
salt – sea salt if you have it
Toast bread and let it cool. Peel the garlic clove and cut in half. Rub the cut half firmly over each slice of bread. Cut the tomato in half. Holding one half in your palm very firmly rub it over a slice of bread, extracting the juice and some pulp. Repeat with the other tomato half on the other slice. Drizzle with the olive oil, then sprinkle with salt. Enjoy as is or, if you're lucky, fork some escalivada on top (or Jamon Jabugo, or even a slice of tortilla Espagnol).
A true Catalonian would also, along with his bread, eat the shell of the used tomato and the rest of the raw garlic. Traditional breakfast beverage with this repast? Beer, of course, followed by a carajillo (coffee with brandy). Couple this with the fact that they also kiss on greeting and like to talk mere centimeters from your face, being around Catalonians right after breakfast was always….aromatic!
No pictures of my tomato bread with escalivada…. Some things do not wait for photos!
Which breakfast do I prefer? Both, of course. Are you a savory or sweet breakfast person?