December 9, 2011
If bread is the Staff of Life, it is also, at the very least, the Kickstand of Cycling. It holds you up and keeps you from falling over. I love this carbolicious treat.
As a kid, homemade bread was not in my universe. Bread was something that came in brightly colored cellophane packages from the grocery store. Bread was white, processed, and guaranteed to build my body in a dozen ways. The stuff was so spongy, you could pretend to play a sliced loaf like an accordion. My friends and I used to remove the crusts, and see how many slices we could jam into our mouths at once. I believe my personal record was seventeen.
I'm not sure I truly learned to love bread until I became a bike traveler. I discovered that bread could be chewy and nutty, savory and spicy, hard and crusty (in a good way), or flat and crispy.
There have been so many memorable loafs. But one loaf rises above them all.
It came out of a wood-fired stove/oven in a small village in Turkey.
We had pedaled up into the mountains a couple of days' ride from Istanbul. The temperature dropped faster than we climbed. We had to walk our bikes through drifts of snow. We debated on whether we had the winter gear to survive the night in our tent. But a couple invited us into their house, gave us their own bed to sleep in, and fed us one of the top-ten best meals I've eaten on this planet.
This was a meal that included freshly caught trout, baked with garlic and cheese! But the star of the meal was the loaf of bread. When our host opened her oven I gasped. This loaf was enormous. It was laughably huge. It could feed a village.
Its sheer size made it memorable, but the taste, that glorious nutty, chewy, crusty, yeasty, warm goodness, made our tongues dance and spontaneous grins break out on our faces.
You know, it's hard to chew and grin at the same time.
It was and remains the ultimate loaf.
Perhaps we should be honest and declare ourselves bread seekers who use bicycles to travel from one loaf to the next.
Do we eat to cycle or cycle to eat?
I'm not sure. But it brings me great joy to understand that the very treasure we seek is also the fuel that propels us onward!
Photos by Willie Weir
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS is posted every other Friday. Willie Weir is a columnist for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His books, Travels with Willie and Spokesongs, will inspire you to hit the road, and might change the way you approach bicycle travel. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can read about their adventures at http://yellowtentadventures.com.