Photo by Raija and Timo Hämynen

My story with bread begins two decades ago in the Senegalese town of Fatick. In my memories, it is a small, slow-paced place that’s never cold — and rainy only in summer time. Its one paved road is slowly getting devoured by sand. Sheep and the occasional cow wonder through the streets, backed by the sound of roosters trying to impress their mistresses. No one is too busy to stop and share lengthy greetings with their neighbors.

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In Fatick, just like most of Senegal, in the 1980s, you could find only one kind of bread: a baguette with a cotton-like white crumb and a thin, crispy yellow crust. Not dark like the artisanal baguettes you would find in Paris, but delicious nonetheless. During Ramadan, the month of fasting according to Islam, the baker adds sugar to the dough and bakes a sweeter variety, perhaps to give some extra energy to the faithful fasters who need to survive from sunrise to sunset without eating or drinking.

Photo by ho visto nina volare (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The bread is sold in small kiosks sprinkled in street corners all over town. The kiosks are bare and basic: a shelf for keeping the morning’s worth of baguettes (usually one big bag of bread), a door, and a small window through which the customer gets served. The kiosk stays open as long as there are baguettes left to be sold and then closes until the next morning when the bread delivery truck makes its rounds.

As the eldest of four boys, it was my job — a job I was proud to do — to buy the bread while my father prepared the porridge and made the table. So, every morning, I put on my flip-flops and walked to the closest bread kiosk just around the block.

The man at the kiosk was called Birame. He was a happy, friendly fellow in his late twenties, always greeting me with a broad grin on his face.

I asked for one bread, “un pain” and Birame showed me two to choose from, one with a darker crust than the other, but otherwise pretty much the same. When I pointed at the one I wanted, he took a piece of newspaper and wrapped it around the baguette.

I handed him a coin of 100 FCFA and brought the bread home to my family.

This is a free preview of an article published in BREAD Magazine Issue 1.

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