The Bread Trail was born out of my passion for traveling and meeting with passionate artisan bakers around my province (Québec, Canada). It was a way to answer the call of bread: I wanted to share with others what I could learn from bakers who loved what they were doing and did what they love.
The essence of the Bread Trail became obvious to me when I apprenticed with a farmer-baker in Normandy, France in 2015. I realized that cultivating a beginner’s mind, accepting to relearn the basics, opening up to my vulnerability, and sharing intense moments with inspiring people were the core of the lifestyle I was seeking for. Writing followed as a natural consequence.
Traveling for a year with my wife and two children, as a traveler-baker as it were, I understood the potential of bread as a medium to create relationships, to uncover new aspects of the world we live in, and to put into practice the values and ideas I cherish. There could not have been a better opportunity to meet with craft bakers from various cultures and traditions.
The Bread Trail column is about personal and experiential journeys through bread. By means of traveling through the world of bread baking, it aims at telling stories in the first person to capture the essence of travel writing, human relationships, and the artisan bread movement.
In Dalarna, central Sweden, the landscape opened up infinitely before our eyes. Aboard our old Bedford 1981 campervan, we crossed tree plantations, lakes, and valleys while heading towards the mountains of the Fulufjället national park. The monotonous highway regularly stepped over the Dalälven river, the second largest in the country (541 km). The high plateaus of Fulufjället averaged 1000 m (3000 feet) in altitude and spread long and wide. They offered us contemplative hikes among lichen, rocks, and open skies. And mosquitoes, lots of them!
The midnight sun kept me awake. At 3:00 a.m. the sun was heating up our tent but the freezing waters of Tangsjöarna lake cleansed us from the burning itches of mosquito bites.
After such a taste of Swedish wilderness, I could not resist the attraction of a traditional, old-fashioned bread in the small community of Blyberg, where, at an exhibition, a team of middle-aged women bakers were showing their craft in making tunnbröd (“flatbread”), a true inspiration in style and design.
Unleavened flatbreads are very common—and the staple meal—in many countries around the world (think of chapatis in India). They are easy to make, bake, and eat with whatever side dish at hand. However, they usually don’t keep well. They dry out and crack quickly.
The tunnbröd is a different species, most probably because of its ingredients: barley flour, potatoes, and salt. The bakers told us that potatoes from the previous year’s crops were better than those harvested recently. The dough mix only contained baked, cooled, and mashed potatoes, mixed thoroughly with barley flour and salt. Wheat or rye flour could also be used in varying proportions.