BREAD IS A BIG DEAL HERE. It’s bought fresh from the bakery every day, is eaten with every meal and is used to swipe your plate until it’s clean enough to put right back into the cabinet. In a part of the world like this one—rustic, simple, remote—fancy fixins aren’t always on hand and you have to make do with what you’ve got. And you’ve always got bread. So what are you going to do with it? Here are three ways Secastillans elevate an ordinary hunk of bread into something scrumptious:
PAN CON TOMATE (pronounced pahn cone toh-mah-tay): This is a staple in northeastern Spain and translates to “bread with tomato.” It’s often eaten at breakfast but can also serve as a snack at home, the base of a killer bocadillo (sandwich; pronounced boh-cah-dee-yoh) or as part of a platter of tapas. Don’t let its simplicity deceive you; this combination is one for the gods. Cut your tomato in half, gently squeeze the juices onto your bread, then smear the flesh across the top. Don’t be shy with the olive oil and salt, or with letting the whole lot sit for a while. Of course, the degree of squishiness is a personal preference; like how long you leave your Oreo dipped in the milk. Or at what level of soak-age your Lucky Charms are the most satisfying. It’s entirely up to you, but you won’t know if you don’t try.
PAN CON VINO Y AZUCAR (bee-noh ee ah-thoo-cahd): Although the young children in Secastilla today may not be familiar with this treat, anyone over the age of 20 has definitely been served bread with wine and sugar as a dessert or to satiate a midday sweet tooth. The crunch of the sugar, the heady fruit of the wine and the softening center of the bread makes me feel like a little girl, swinging my legs and licking my fingers at my grandma’s cozy kitchen table. I recommend an immodest layer of sugar applied before the red wine. It makes for optimum absorption, resulting in an indulgence reminiscent of a boozy jelly doughnut.
PAN CON AJO Y ACEITE (ah-hoh ee ah-thay-ee-tay): Yep, it’s garlic bread, but done just a little bit differently. Instead of mincing the garlic, the clove (called a “tooth” here) is scraped directly onto the bread. Then drizzled with olive oil made in house and sprinkled with fat flakes of sea salt. Toasting first makes the garlic application a lot easier and the taste richer. Is it better than the buttery stuff that we eat in America? I think so. Why? Because I’m eating it in Secastilla, of course.