the Life around the Loaf

Everyday bread can be Extraordinary. I am a baker and good-bread-seeker with a particular interest in Sourdoughs (see first post for explaination) but also a general interest in Life and Happiness and the role bread can play in it.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

A bread story from il Signore Camba's youth

Correcting the grammar in my list of questions, my host Tore' laughs because the question “What does bread mean to you?” is so ridiculous to him. Not in the way that I'd think, that it was bizarre or irrelevant, but because the role bread is too important to call into question. It's like being asked what the colour green means for you, and having to imagine a world without green.

“Se manca il pane, manca un pezzo di se stesso”

-If you're without bread, you are missing a part of yourself-

If bread is so necessary, why is Emilio (the baker downstairs) lamenting the diminishing demand for bread? “Because young people have never experienced scarcity.”

Tore' tells me this amazing story about his youth:

He was one of ten children, 10 “hungry wolves”, and the whole family got through 15-20kgs of bread every day. Bread and cheese was their staple diet: “It sounds like a lot, but it's hard to get fat on bread.” However, the bread ration during WWII was 200g each, next to nothing!

Cagliari suffered badly under air raids, and Tore's parents moved out to a place in the countryside. He can remember joining a stream of fleeing city-dwellers. They went by car, and he recalls the mystified faces of villagers who'd never seen a car in motion before. They weren't poor, comparatively, but there was no goods to buy. You could get hold of bread from 'under the counter' -pane di nascosto- but it was often so bad, augmented with bran, acorn flour or even woodshavings, that Tore's brother came up with his own way to get hold of more bread:

He'd watch the chimneys of the other houses for any sign of smoke, then run to the door of any house in which he saw that a fire had been lit. He knew that this meant they were getting ready to bake their bread, and he'd found the perfect moment to go in and ask for a bit of the refreshed pasta madre- “-because my mother needs it.” A living leaven was a precious and shared resource before the existence of commercially-available compressed yeast. He'd bring home his ball of dough, roll it out very, very thin and toast it to make his own version of Carta di Musica. The other villagers must have been thinking, Tore' says, “wow, these Cagliarese must bake a lot!”


  1. Va bene!
    This is really interesting stuff Dill. I've been reading it with rapt attention. I'd love a sketch of Tore' if you've got the time and he's got the inclination.

  2. You should ask Tore for his story about his mother buying lettuce for the 10 kids when they were little!


Madeleine (Dilly) Boase