A la recherche du pain perdu…

The bread in Cambodia is not quite right. Baguettes are everywhere, on the street stalls, in bars, at markets. But when you tear the golden husk, it cracks and blisters. The flesh is dry and bubbly and disappears on your tongue like dead sherbet. I had a hangover a few weeks back and ordered a baguette at a pretty fancy joint, thinking it would break the run of powdery baked goods. It did not, but you could have absolutely skimmed a few slices across the pool and broken somebody’s face.

So today, I ordered some eggs and bread, expecting good to very good eggs, and shit to inedible bread. What followed was a taste experience of Proustian proportions. Solid, thick, white, perfectly toasted bread, half soaked through with salted butter. It’s been a while since I’ve had these feelings for my bread friend.

It makes it all the more magical that this is occurring in Southeast Asia. It lets my mind run off on imaginings on where all the perfect ingredients could have come from. Flour ground in the foothills of the Cardamoms, oil shipped on a sailboat across the Gulf of Thailand. In all probability, it could just be from a particularly good bread mix packet in the supermarket, but eating it here gives it a certain stamp of quality and adventure. I’ve had really, really good bread in Manchester, but it didn’t quite elicit the same reaction.

A thundering rain shower brings a drop in temperature in Phnom Penh, the really loud English people at the table next to me who’ve spent an hour discussing luxury spa breaks in Thailand finally fuck off and it’s just me, my bread and a drain of coffee.

It’s the little things.