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I could be confused with James Rhodes if we stick to the passion that puts him in his defense of the particularities and differences of our country. But luckily, or unfortunately, Ibán Yarza is not so mediatic, although he has made his little pinitos on television and is known as the great bread guru.
His latest book, which is already in the third edition, continues in the same path of what we already knew about this pro panarra: Spain is a place with an incredible culture and it is necessary to make it known.
Pan de Pueblo is the name of a volume that mixes the best of Anthony Bourdain's road movie; that little initiatory dot that the old Lonely Planet had, the ones that really discovered places that didn't appear in the usual travel guides; and some wisdom and good knowledge of Alan Lomax, the mythical ethnomusicologist who kicked the entire world to capture how the most recondite cultures of the planet sounded.
But Yarza, in the end, is much more local and closer. Their references should be sought in Felix Rodriguez de la Fuente, José Antonio Labordeta, Sergio del Molino (the author of empty Spain) or Joaquín Díaz, another folklorist who has managed to enlarge the idea of a country that many of us have.
Pan de Pueblo, a journey through the bread and traditional bakeries of Spain © Abraham Rivera
Pan de Pueblo: Recipes and stories of the breads and bakeries of Spain is a trip, for more than 25, 000 kilometers of regional roads, where tradition is intertwined with the present.
A particularly delicate moment for bread. Well, although more than 350 varieties appear, some are about to disappear because of the little care we are taking with them. Conservation, militancy and reality. A fundamental work if we want to know what is happening right now in the other Spain.
A shared publication by Ibán Yarza (@ibanyarza) on Jun 28, 2018 at 12:38 p.m. PDT
How did you propose the book to the publisher so that in the end it was almost 300 pages with so much information and images?
The book was going to be half at the beginning and would have many recipes. But that fell short. As soon as I started going to places and taking pictures I saw that this had a lot of potential. I managed to convey in the different meetings I had with the publishing house that bread is a cultural aspect.
In the end there is a very complete book: there is history, there are recipes, there are features of ethnography … I try to play many sticks. But the important thing was to reach as many people as possible and convey the importance of bread and its culture.
More than 350 varieties of bread appear in the Pan de Pueblo book, some in danger of disappearing © Getty Images
Tell me the whole process of the trip. The work behind it is amazing, community by community. How did you get organized?
I think if I think again I do not. You don't know the money I've left and the hours I've been in the car from one place to another. I live in Ibiza, on an island, so everything becomes more difficult. If I want to go to Cuenca one day I do not take the car and leave there. Everything required a thorough previous work.
I focused on areas and did a previous research work. Research everything. I prefer not to add what I have left in travel and books. If there was a small ethnography notebook in Guadalajara, there it was. The documentation has been very large.
But going from one place to another. How did you do it? In your story you can see that you have not slept for many hours …
The trips were real madness. I had been wanting to write the book for a long time, but I always threw back the fact that Spain is very large. If you put three loaves of bread in 50 provinces per province, you would need several years to do it and not live.
"In the end there is a very complete book: there is history, there are recipes, there are ethnography features …", comments Ibán Yarza © Getty Images
And you did it in less than a year.
He took an area, flew to the nearest airport, rented a car, and ran out towards the bakery where he had an appointment. Those eight or ten days slept on average three hours. Two hours many days. I tried to concentrate a province in one day, which is absolute madness.
In A Coruña I made 500 kilometers of bakery in bakery. In Cáceres the same. Keep in mind that the baker's job is at dawn. I got up at two in the morning and went to see how they did the baking of the day.
You also had to take pictures and conduct the interviews. That you never knew how it would work. What did you find?
There was always a very good disposition. If you look, each chapter tells a different aspect of bread and what has happened around it. The baker told me a story, the techniques, the recipes … This at many in the morning, then go to another bakery in which he had cited me.
And from there the day was a continuum from road to road. My idea was to get the greatest diversity of breads possible, which has a lot to do with the diversity of customs in each region.
A shared publication by Ibán Yarza (@ibanyarza) on Jun 5, 2018 at 11:53 p.m.
What was your criteria for choosing the different bakeries and breads that appear in the book?
I see and read about breads, but I don't know everything about breads. It is absurd to say that you know everything about breads. I relied heavily on friends bakers or distributors of flour that had spread throughout Spain. So I was pulling people from the area.
But then all that had to be screened, because there were many things that recommended me that then I was not interested. Nor did he want to show equal breads. For example, in Cantabria a curious thing happened, almost all the remarkable bread was concentrated in the same area. That was a problem for me, because all the breads were very similar. I didn't want to make five equal cakes. What he did in the end was Palencia, Burgos and he was going down.
Another greatness of the book is the variety of criteria that you have managed to convey. In a moment of total uniformity, where it seems that the "official taste" is so marked, you have managed to give value to each variety. Did you find it very difficult?
I am from Bilbao and there is no candeal there. However, the candeal is the bread, what else is there throughout Spain. This bread does not belong to the taste that I have known, like the spicy curry or bittersweet, but you must do it. There are breads that must be appreciated for different factors: their flavor, their texture or because they are simply rare.
A shared publication by Ibán Yarza (@ibanyarza) on Mar 31, 2018 at 12:29 PM PDT
A clear case is the Balearic bread, where you live, which has no salt.
So is. At the first bite people say "this has no salt." And as time goes by, you appreciate that these breads are of such purity that the salt bothers them. I think it's a spectacular lesson. They are things that are not so obvious.
In the end, bread is the homeland of each one, even if you know there are better ones. What I have tried with the book is for people to open their minds and not think that their bread is the best.
What are the most curious or rare breads that you have encountered on this trip?
More than with curious breads, I have come across techniques. I had read in many places how the man began to make bread. In those beginnings the fermentation was not known and cakes were made without fermenting. Unleavened cakes, like the ones you get in the church when you receive communion. They are breads that are not fermented, do not have bubbles.
This is something you read in prehistory books, but you can't imagine that there are still places that keep making bread this way. And yes, in Alicante I have seen it. It is as if you find a countryman in Alicante making a flint gun. There are ancestral techniques that are still in use.
Large, typical Cillamayor breads in Jesús Martín Bakery © Abraham Rivera
All the photographs in the book are yours. There are more than a thousand. Many of them are difficult to describe: they are authentic, far removed from the Instagram effect. How did you get it?
You will not believe it, but many of the breads that appear in the photos were given to me by the bakers to photograph. So I found that I couldn't eat them until I arrived at the hostel on duty. The white funds that can be seen are the bedspreads of the pensions of all Spain. If you look, you will see that many funds have little costumes or flowers.
Others are taken in bakeries, in the case of breads that appear on the cover of the book. That day I was in a communal oven in El Bierzo, it is not a photography inn, the black is soot. Those breads for the general trend of bakery school are ugly because they are irregular.
They are not heavy and are for home consumption. But they really are beautiful. I remember that when I posted it on Facebook, a man complained: "They are the ugliest breads I've ever seen in my life, " he wrote. And it is true, they would not pass an exam test. But there is no gastroelitism.
That is another of the great values of the book. There is no elitism, nor nostalgia, nor something as typical of today as it is to want to seem what it is not. What conclusion do you draw from your visits?
That we must be aware of the enormous heritage we have. Since the book came out there are already bakeries that have closed. That knowledge has already been lost. We must do something with all the cultural advisors of the different councils throughout Spain. Especially from Galicia, which has a heritage of brutal bread. It is unacceptable that Galicia does not have an encyclopedia of multi-volume bread.
We must be envious of the French, the Swiss or the Italians. They value bread more than us. The French have a law of the year 1993 in which they force you to knead, ferment and bake bread to have your own bakery. The Swiss in the sixties set up a national institute dedicated to defending the culture and history of bread. We have a culture of bread that is dying.
A shared publication by Ibán Yarza (@ibanyarza) on Apr 22, 2018 at 1:49 PDT
FIVE BREADS YOU SHOULD KNOW AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
Cañada, in David Muñoz Bakery (Crossing of Perones, 3, Biel, Zaragoza)
“Biel is a few hundred kilometers from Zaragoza, but, in the dark night of the eternal and winding road, one would seem to be traveling in time escorted by deer, rabbits and wild boar in each curve. Barely a hundred souls inhabit this corner of Zaragoza that feels almost Pyrenean, set apart in an unpopulated corner of the depopulated Aragon. David Muñoz carefully elaborates the bread that his father Felix taught him: the glen and the bun. The name of Glen comes from the marks that were made in each in each house with a cane to later recognize them ”.
Large breads, in Alejandro Iglesias Bakery (Plaza Iglesia, s / n, Cillamayor, Palencia)
“Alejandro Iglesias, forty-five years old, pulls a round and golden loaf from Cillamayor from his wood-burning oven while it dawns below zero to almost a thousand meters of altitude. This town of just fifty inhabitants is in the northern limit of Palencia and announces its summits. The population has reduced a lot, but the region lived for almost two centuries the trajín of the exploitation of the coal mines ”.
Easter cake of Panadería Moreno (Torreagüera, Murcia) © Abraham Rivera
Easter cake, in Panadería Moreno (José Alegría Nicolás, 2, Torreagüera, Murcia)
“Easter cake is a typical Christmas fermented dough, but that is consumed today throughout the year. In Torreagüera, the Moreno brothers teach me this incredible elaboration. The crescent (bread dough) is mixed with large amounts of fried almonds, cooked sweet potatoes, orange juice, matalahúva grains and aniseed spirits. With all this load, the resulting dough is almost liquid and would seem to be unfit for baking, but after twenty-four hours of fermentation the miracle works: a superlative product. "
Loaf, in Bakery Montserrat Lopez (B.º Central, 5, Quintana de Valdivielso, Burgos)
“Baker Montse Lopez transfers the cakes and loaves to the shovel with a masterful blow of the wrist. I have not met many people with the ease and self-confidence with the shovel that this woman from Quintana de Valdivieso has, in the north of Burgos. During the fermentation, the pieces already formed rest in the masseurs (the fabrics), and it is usual to help themselves with a small palette to pass them from there to the big shovel of the oven. Working alone, by force, Montse had to learn to skip that intermediate step, and giving the cloth a dry tug flips the loaves, which rotate in the air until they land on their master shovel. ”
Mari and Montse, two generations of bakers in Quintana de Valdivieso, Burgos © Abraham Rivera
Bread baked with anise, 100% Bread and pastry (La Graciosa, 4, Playa San Juan, Santa Cruz de Tenerife)
“In Playa de San Juan (Tenerife), Alexis García also learned bakery at home. However, he always had a lot of restlessness, wanted to learn and do new things, which sometimes clashes with the more traditional family business plans, and practically led him to hate the bakery. With a thoughtful voice, he remembers that luckily he had the opportunity to go to a bakery in Strasbourg, where he realized that he had lost time and saw what he really wanted to do. Ten years ago he opened his business, in which, in addition to bread, he makes a high-level bakery (Alexis is a baker with the soul of a baker). ”
The bread baked with aniseed by Alexis García © Abraham Rivera