Monday, May 2, 2016

Antigua, Guatemala: Yogurt and Bread

Generally, I live on a pretty straightforward menu, which consists of some protein, bread, lots of vegetables and fruit. Strong-flavored cheese at times.

No worries, I'm not about to embark on a litany in adoration of the latest trend based on junk-science, whether it be paleo, blood-type, gluten-free-for-everyone, raw food, whole30, or whatever else the shit is out there being hawked by modern-day snake-oil sellers these days. Also, I'm not a foodie, at least not in the sense of being a gourmet.

I'm just offering a preface to get to today's topic: yogurt and bread.

Because although my dietary regimen is pretty boring by most measures, I love the food I eat. And when a particular item on my usual menu surpasses my expectations, I get a little swoony.  Don't even get me started on the wonders of the snappy, sweet, jumbo carrots you can get inside Antigua's cavernous municipal market.

Or how I practically licked the plate at an Italian restaurant in Antigua, where I lapped up the pasta in an Alfredo sauce with such enthusiasm, a dish I hadn't had in maybe a year or more, that the gentleman I was with appeared a little alarmed at just how much I enjoyed that meal. I looked him straight in the eye and smiled without shame.

But anyhoo, on to the main point of this post.

Yogurt. I don't remember if I stumbled on the yogurt at Doña Luisa's little storefront bakery adjacent to the well-known restaurant, or if someone recommended it to me, but Goddamn, that yogurt is good! I tried the blackberry (mora) yogurt first, as a bit of nostalgia from my trip to Ecuador in my youth, where the memory of whipped, frothy blackberry juice I bought there has stuck with me ever since. The texture of Doña Luisa's yogurt is thick and a little granular, so in addition to a delicious flavor, it has a luscious mouth feel.

It's more expensive than any of the other yogurt  I tried in Antigua, but exponentially richer in flavor and feel.

Bread. By pure chance, on a certain day at a certain time on a certain stretch of sidewalk near Central Park in Antigua, I bought a bag of rolls from a woman who sat on said sidewalk. I am rolling my eyes heavenward just thinking of them. Round, kind of flat, with a bit of chewiness, and just a little sweetness. 

Sadly, after I consumed all of the rolls, I couldn't find them anywhere again. Anywhere! I didn't even know what they were called. In describing the rolls to just about everyone I met, someone would offer a name for them, and I'd hie myself to the multitude of bakeries in town and ask about them. I tried a couple that were similar in looks and shape. No!

Eventually, after some goose-chasing leads, I got a couple of new name possibilities from my Spanish teacher: "pan de Patzún" or "pan de maxtate." Bingo. The reason I couldn't find this bread in any of the bakeries is because it isn't sold in any of the bakeries in Antigua (at least not that I found). It is a local bread from the countryside, let's call it a farmer's bread, perhaps considered too rustic by city folk.

With the new intel, I continued to ask around where I might find this bread. A new lead came to me, I think it was from the guy who sells bus tickets to Lake Atitlan in the cafe across from a local supermarket: "If you go over there (pointing to an area outside the supermarket) on Tuesday afternoons at about 3:00, no, maybe 4:00, you'll find a woman who sells this bread." I learned from this gentleman, or perhaps another informant, that the bread is normally sold inside the massive Antiguan municipal market, brought in from the countryside only on the big market days.

Guatemalan bread: Pan de maxtate or pan de Patzún. Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.

I couldn't find this woman on the designated afternoon, so to the municipal market I went. I asked this vendor, and that vendor, and the other vendor. "Pan de maxtate? Pan de Patzún?" No, no, no. Then someone pointed deeper into the darkness of the market, "Back there." I kept asking. Finally, a woman indicated she knew where I could find this bread, and she led me there. Aha! A woman had baskets of it! The holy grail!

I bought a huge bag of the rolls to hopefully last me the duration of my visit. And it did.

Guatemalan bread: Pan de maxtate or pan de Patzún. Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.

Guatemalan bread: Pan de maxtate or pan de Patzún. Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.

Sigh. Mission complete.

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