Man might not live by bread alone, but I really need my daily dose of carbohydrates in a baked form, preferably slathered in butter. It’s not that I don’t like rice, which is good because if you’re living in Thailand, lord knows you will be eating plenty of it. The same is true of noodles. I’ve lost track long ago of how many bowls of noodle soup I’ve eaten since I first set foot on these Jasmine scented shores. But like a lot of you out there reading this, there is simply no substitute for a crusty loaf of bread, still warm from the oven.
That’s why yesterday I was in a panic. I opened the freezer and there wasn’t a single bit of bread to be found! I thought for sure that there was a last loaf hidden behind a bag of ice, but noooooooo, there was only a container of oatmeal cookie dough. I would have had the oven pre-heating, but while warm cookies might have done the trick if I had a sweet tooth, they simply weren’t what I was in the mood for. What I wanted was a fried egg sandwich, and for that I needed two slices of bread. By bread, I do not mean some packaged Styrofoam-like substance from Big C. That stuff is so unappealing, that even my neighborhood soi dogs turn their noses up in disgust at it. Real bread does not contain dubious chemicals, fiber in the form of shredded cardboard, and is definitely not extruded onto a conveyor belt!
I could of course make my own crusty loaf, and from time to time I actually do just that. Kneading dough is very therapeutic, and the smell of baking bread can only be described as heavenly. Alas, my schedule nowadays doesn’t give me as much time as I would like for baking. What I’ve had to do is stock up and freeze as many loaves as will fit in our freezer. There is not a single bit of bread in Lampang worth eating…in my humble opinion. The closest place to find anything palatable is Chiang Mai, which is about 90 kilometers away. With a good tailwind, and no police checkpoints, I can make it to Rimping Market in just over an hour. Any farang living in the Chiang Mai area is probably familiar with at least one of its branches. (For me the one on the way to Mae Jo University is most convenient.) If you simply must have a bottle of Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice, or a bag of Doritos, you’ll find it there, along with Pepperidge Farm Double Chocolate Chip Cookies. They don’t have their own bakery, but some packaged bread that is quite good. Yesterday I bought four small loaves each of: Rye, Pumpernickel, and Multigrain bread. This is very dense heavy bread, which I like to toast. The pretty cashier looks amused as I unload twelve packages of bread by her register, but having so many farangs shop there, I’m sure she’s seen stranger things in the course of a day.
If you’re thinking that having bought twelve loafs of bread my shopping is done for the day, well you’re wrong. This is just the packaged bread. Now for the fresh stuff! So it’s down the highway to Carrefour, which has a pretty decent bakery. The aroma hit me before I was half way down the aisle. Yes! Here a man could find some real sustenance! Since it was still early in the morning, everything was fresh out of the oven. The question was, what to bring home today? One definite choice was the Walnut Sour, which is not a sweet bread as such, but toasted walnuts give it a sweet fresh taste. The Bacon Loaf was another must have. Given my health, I have been forced to give up bacon, but the amount contained in each of these loafs is miniscule. There is just enough smoky flavor to compliment my future egg sandwich. French Sour Dough? Why not? To be honest it is not as good as real San Francisco sour dough bread, but since I’m a loooong way from the City by the Bay, so it will do well enough. The Mediterranean Loaf looks good today. There are plenty of olives and sun dried tomatoes to make it a perfect compliment to a fresh cucumber salad. As a half hearted gesture towards “good health”, I’ll take a loaf of the Soy Loaf, which is much better than it sounds. It does taste better when toasted though. The friendly lady working in the bakery department bags it all up, and in a few minutes I’m in my truck and headed back home. All of that lovely bread exuding its tantalizing fragrance is driving me crazy. Luckily I make it home before I’m tempted to reach in the back seat and just start ripping into something. In a few minutes I will wrap each loaf in aluminum foil and stack it in the freezer, but first I need to eat. The frying pan is heating while I whisk two eggs with some freshly ground pepper, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, along with a dash of sesame oil. I throw a dollop of butter in the pan, in goes the eggs. Cooked to a golden brown and placed between two thick slices of Bacon Loaf, here is a dish that even the gods on Olympus would envy.
By now you are probably thinking that this guy is perhaps just a touch weird. If you live anywhere in Farangland you probably don’t think twice about finding a decent loaf of bread. If you are living in Bangkok or Pattaya there are plenty of good bakeries. Out here in the hinterlands though, it’s another story. Happily in this case a story with a happy ending.
I can relate! Hell, even in Bangkok you do have to shop around to get good bread. My favourite is that sold by La Boulange on Soi Convent.