As a French teacher, one of the first words I teach my students is le pain. The French are reputed to be a whiny lot, I quip. Their great historical novel of the 19th century is les Miserables and their word for bread is pain.
During my student days in Paris, I learned just how seriously the French take their pain. 320 baguettes are sold every second in France in over 35,000 bakeries.
The French typically eat a breakfast of coffee and bread sans eggs, cold cuts, hash browns or tomatoes. If it isn’t a chunk of baguette, it’s the crescent-shaped croissant, the pain au chocolat or the tartine – a slice of bread with a sweet or savoury topping.
On my return to India, I ditched the morning eggs, oats, poha, upma and idlis of my childhood for a café-tartine breakfast. My family called it coffee and Maska pau.
When I cut out gluten from my diet in 2014, I took my renunciation of all wheat-full yumminess with an (eventual) hard-earned equanimity. All except for the bread.
It was a bad break up. A grim and painful withdrawal. Heartache and burn. No reason to get out of bed. Haunting memories of warm loaves with melting Amul butter.
My palate hurt as I swallowed my rice porridge. It yearned for bread. Any bread. 30 rupees-a-slice Indigo Deli bread that had the consistency of a plum cake, 40 rupees-a-pop imported German rice bread that tasted like chalk. Neer dosa masquerading as sliced bread that tasted like neer dosa. I savoured every mouthful with gratitude.
And then someone mentioned that Foodhall at Phoenix Mills’ stored a gluten-free bread mix. I hiked to the third floor of the Palladium. My heart skipped a beat. There it was - Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-free Bread Mix. I could have hugged Bob and his red mill.
I baked it. In a teeny Murphy Richards’ oven. And it was go-o-o-od. I ate it for breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner. I ate it with butter and peanut butter, with Nutella, Marmite, Chatni. My darling Tartine had come back to me.
Since then, the Lord gives us, most kindly, our daily g-free bread. Go Gluten-free, Nature’s Basket, Mer Confekt at Breach Candy, Sequel at Kalaghoda, Gourmestan at Colaba, Mumbai abounds with stores and restaurants that serve it. Hallelujah.