So there I was, standing in arrivals at Mexico City airport, after five hours of being sardined into a middle seat, now standing and watching an empty carousel rotate for an hour.
“I better go and try to put the brakes on the shuttle”, said Don Day’s Wife. “We’ll rendezvous right outside customs.”
So, after another half hour of round and around hypnosis by the spinning carousel, there I was inside customs and wouldn’t you know it, I lost the red light/green light game.
“¿Tiene algún producto alimenticio en sus maletas?”
“Yes, I think there may be some food in my wife’s bag.”
“Abrelo por favor.”
Oh please don’t check her Contigo water bottle with the sourdough starter in it, I thought. That paste looks exactly like the stuff they use in bombs.
No, all of the officious-looking guy’s attention was on the bag of Robin Hood flour. I expected him to wet his middle finger, poke it in the bag and dab it on his tongue (how do all TV cops know what cocaine taste like?). But the inspector didn’t.
Instead he asked me, more inquisitively than interrogatively, why would my wife bring a 2.5 kg sack of flour all the way from Canada to Mexico. I thought of telling him it was because she couldn’t squeeze a second bag into her case (a true story) but, instead, I tried to explain Don Day’s Wife passion for baking.
Yes, instead, of two more pairs of Jimmy Choos or Manolo Blahniks, she had chosen a giant bag of Robin Hood Best for Bread Homestyle White. What had happened to my wife?
I’m blaming Covid. Right after people making babies at home, people baking bread at home is soaring in popularity. To date, in 2020, the third most googled food word in the USA is “sourdough”, right behind “dalgona” and “ekmek” (whatever they are).
And why wouldn’t Don Day’s Wife just put Mexican flour on her online La Comer order, the day after we arrived?
“It’s almost always all-purpose in Mexico. It doesn’t have enough gluten in it”, she told me, “You can’t get Canadian wheat bread flour here. It rises so much better, has a softer texture.”
So now it is Monday, three days after our arrival back in San Miguel, and I’m having a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. And how is the home-baked bread you ask? Non-existent actually. We’re eating store-bought. We’re waiting for the essential, enamel-coated, cast-iron pot to bake the bread in to arrive from Amazon.
So would I dare a suggestion? Could I suggest a call to Pablo the baker, for an order of San Miguel’s possibly second-best sourdough to hold us over. I would, I could and I did.
And who is Pablo the baker? Well I don’t really know. But I get messages and I get emails.
“You must try Pablo’s bread.” “It’s right up there with Buonforno.” “I think it’s better than Panio’s baguette.” “The best bread in San Miguel.”
I messaged Pablo. He replied in seconds. Timing is very important when baking bread (and making babies).
Darn, he was sold out but he could have a plain and an olive and Italian seasonings delivered the following day. I started to reminisce about the fifties, sitting on the porch watching for the electric van that brought a crusty loaf to my home every day but Sunday.
Like Don Day’s Wife, Pablo makes a sourdough loaf so I thought the first thing I should explain to you is what exactly sourdough is and why it’s better than any other bread. Explaining it though is like explaining a Grade 11 chemistry project and I got a D in chemistry so I’ll just tell you that it’s fluffier inside, crustier outside and, in my opinion, tastes better than any other style of bread in the world.
That following afternoon, our wake-up-the-entire-neighborhood buzzer buzzed. Pablo’s bread had arrived. I’d ordered both loaves, the regular and the olive and herbs. That “don’t waste a single second, slice me now” smell wafted through the house. I counted down the three hours before I’d be able to penetrate it with the serrated knife.
Pablo’s inviting crust was a little darker than Don Day’s Wife crust. The first slice revealed that his interior was much darker than Don Day’s Wife’s as well. I asked her if she knew why.
“I expect that he uses a higher proportion of whole wheat versus bread flour than I do…I use about 15%”, she told me. “I think it accounts for why it’s a little more dense than mine. Secondly, most people coat their sourdough with rice flour, whereas I have always coated mine in corn meal.”
We served Pablo’s bread with Soul Kitchen’s butternut squash soup. It was one of those Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson kind of marriages.
The bread was beefier, meatier, than Don Day’s Wife’s. I’d call his Middle European. I’d call hers more San Franciscan.
The next day, Pablo’s olive and herbs loaf was served with a simple charcuterie plate. I enjoyed it even more than the plain.
So did we have a dilemma, predicament, quandary…possible grounds for a you-know-what? No, Don Day’s Wife’s sourdough remains my favorite sourdough and not just because it’s her I sleep with and not Pablo. Yesterday, her sourdough floated on a French onion soup that was cooked in the same pot that the bread was baked in. It was wonderful.
But, once in a while, when I need a change, when I need something a little meatier, I’m going to risk a suggestion, not emphatically, but gently, that we order Pablo’s.
Pablo bakes his sourdoughs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and requires two day’s notice. To order Pablo’s sourdough, call or message 415 103 0608. The regular loaf is $80 and the olive and herbs $100. There’s also a cranberry loaf for $120. Delivery is a very reasonable $20. You’ll find his Facebook site at Locos por el sourdough.