Hello Again, Sydney

One Sydney-sider's experiences moving back to Sydney after a long absence overseas.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Our daily bread

What is your desert island starch? I mean, if you could only choose potatoes, pasta, rice, bread, couscous etc to eat for the rest of your days, what would you go for? My wife (like most Colombians) would plump for rice. Whenever we're stuck for something to eat, the first thing she does is fire up the stove to make some rice. As long as we have a packet of the stuff in the house, she feels secure in the knowledge that we will not go hungry. The first thing I look for when I've got the munchies is bread.

First let me say that pretty much anything fresh baked beats the supermarket brands. I'll never forget the baguettes we used to buy in Colombia, from the panaderia in the Torres del Parque. They'd still be warm enough to melt butter on when we got them home. And I can't resist the knot rolls sprinkled with poppy seeds at the average suburban bakery here. But for all the taste advantages you get from the fresh stuff, there's still the need for supermarket loaves. Blame it on modern life, but they're just so much easier to use for sandwiches or toast. Like all cliches, there's a measure of truth in the saying "the best thing since sliced bread". Yeah, I know a lot of bakeries will slice their loaves for you, but it's not the same.

In Colombia, the varieties on offer in the supermarkets were disappointing. Pan Bimbo - the most popular brand - is small and extremely sweet for my tastes. A lot of it is too light - maybe something to do with the altitude of Bogota? In Australia you get a massive variety. However, as you probably know, variety doesn't necessarily equate to happiness. Here are some of the not-so-memorable bread moments that we've had lately.

This first one is called "Up", and to be honest, we should have known better. The real problem here is when you go to the local corner store at about 8pm, you take what you can get. And if you're not into raisin toast or crumpets then this is about it. It's insipid, and devoid of all texture, and has the colour of recycled toilet paper. You could say that eating it was like eating cardboard, but that would be harsh on the cardboard. Still, it's packed with vitamins and minerals. Mmm.

After that nightmare, you'll probably reach for something completely different, such as Burgen. I think there may be an umlout over the u, but frankly, the bread doesn't merit an extended character set. I blame this one on the marketing department, brainstorming around a plate of sandwiches:
"More grains, we need more grains. Especially on the outside, where people can see them."
"Get R&D on it!"
"How about a German-sounding name?"
"And a smaller loaf, to make it look handmade and precious."
"All while cleverly cutting costs. Very sneaky."
This one is bland and really all the more disappointing for the promising packaging. Try the rye - you will laugh.
Lawson's (can't be arsed to find a pic) took a leaf out of the Burgen book, except they decided to produce something that looked like it was baked in a colonial wood stove, probably while someone was reciting the poetry of Henry Lawson - or maybe while the man himself was extemporising over an open fire. They've gone for a shape that is even more unorthodox, and you have to cut each slice in half if you want to fit it in your toaster. Pity all the poor lunchbox owners trying to take a sandwich to school/work. They've also eschewed the traditional plastic bag/bread clip and gone for a paper bag with a sticker to keep it sealed, which is good for about three openings. As for the taste, it's not dissimilar to Burgen. In fact, it could all be an elaborate marketing joke. I'm not buying it.

This one - Tip Top 9 Grain - is actually not bad, except that it's impossible to get it home without mashing it out of shape. Can a bread be guilty of being too soft? Maybe they should sell it in a box. The only other issue I have is with them bragging about nine grains. Brings to mind KFC touting their 11 secret herbs and spices. I'd actually struggle to come up with nine grains, and my tastebuds would certainly struggle to recognise them.

And finally, the one which we've actually found to be pretty damn good, our current favourite... Helga's pumpkin and 5 seed. See, now they've opted out of the whole "I've got more seeds than you" one-upmanship, and I think they've reaped the rewards. Plenty of grains - and they're believable grains, not ones that feel like they've been artificially inserted to give the impression of texture - and plenty of taste. Bring out the butter and Vegemite!


At 11:46 pm, Blogger Kristina said...

Can't be spaghetti for keeping my household happy... I'm not fussy about bread, though I've started buying whole wheat bread, supposedly so much healthier...

At 5:43 pm, Blogger Mark said...

I'd probably put pasta in second place, maybe a tie with rice. Potatoes down the bottom somewhere!

At 9:13 pm, Blogger Becky Motew said...


How can you forget them?

I'd go for that Bimbo Bread and hope that I didn't get any smartass remarks. Great post.

At 8:32 pm, Blogger Mark said...

Good point becky, but I could live without chips if I had pretzels.

At 12:25 am, Blogger Mark said...

Bagels and pizza too... sorry, bread wins.


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