Neighborhood tour: The bakery

It’s another gorgeous day here today. Warm sunshine, shiny green leaves, and a playful breeze. I’m finally comfortable in a tee shirt and linen pants, but most Lao are wearing socks and jackets. Our waiter at the restaurant the other night was wearing a scarf, gloves, and a hat as well. I guess all things, even our experience of the weather, are at least partly a matter of perspective.

I was out earlier today with our next door neighbor, Dwight, learning to drive a golf cart with no brakes and no turn signals. The golf cart belongs to our landlord and Dwight’s been using it for the last three months. He’s leaving town in two days so Mike and I have inherited it, and as we still haven’t managed to get our act or our cash together to go and buy a motorcycle, I guess this makes the golf cart our household vehicle.

The golf cart is a boxy cube of dented white plastic and moves at approximately the speed of a ride-on lawnmower. I don’t actually know if it’s strictly legal for me to drive this oversize toy around town or where the registration papers are kept. I better ask Dwight before he leaves.

Anyway, as Dwight was instructing me on the finer points of navigating intersections, “just take your foot off the gas, see, and watch to see what everyone’s going to do, and then just make a guess as to where you can fit in there – they’ll stop for you if they have to,” I was thinking that it would be fun to pack you all into the golf cart and take you around the neighborhood with me. But seeing as how that’s not possible, some photo tours will have to do.

We’ll start today with the bakery.

This bakery is a three minute walk from our house, down a little dirt alley. Mike discovered it while he was out prowling around one day and came back with hot bread, very excited, to tell me that loaves come out at 2pm and 8pm every day – or, at least, that’s what he thought they were trying to tell him.

We still haven’t quite figured out the bakery schedule, but they’ve gotten used to the strange farang (foreigners) from up the road dropping in periodically to pick up half a dozen baguettes.

The location of this bakery is officially one of the coolest things about our house, and one of these days we’re going to throw a hot bread party. It’ll be awesome. You’re all invited.

So, with no further ado, here is the bakery:

“If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.” (Robert Browning)

The men sit at long tables, rolling out the risen dough into small, thin, loaves.

Another person mans the brick oven, sliding in dough and pulling out bread using just a thin board.

The women wait for the hot bread, and then brush off some of the ashes and dirt with scrubbing brushes.

Mike and I have the easy job, picking out some to take home.

And the rest goes off in bushel baskets on the back of a motorcycle to vendors around town.

To close, here’s another great bread quote. Perhaps my favorite:

“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” (Mahatma Gandi)


2 responses to “Neighborhood tour: The bakery

  1. I love that last quote. So, so true. I’ve felt that way before… not about bread per se, but I’ve felt that broken. Those baskets full of bread reminded me of the loaves and fishes story in the gospels! It’s cool when you see things that make the history of the Bible come alive a bit more. Also, I dug the tour of the bakery. So not a wonder bread factory. It looks amazingly delicious.

    • Thanks, Sally. Yeah, so not a wonder bread factory. I love how one of the men in one of those first photos is sitting on what looks like a giant screw. I can’t imagine that it would be all that comfortable, but it’s an intriguing choice of seat. Maybe next week I’ll do a tour of the market. There are more than a few intriguing visuals there too.

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