Bread. What a simple life enjoyment. Since I have moved to Andalusia, I find that the grain group on my personal food pyramid has come to take over nearly half of the pyramid itself. Luckily I am… nope, I am not working off those calories—bummer—BUT my overall happiness has certainly increased.
I’ve been told by many a local that bread is a must-have accompaniment for all meals here. Bread is so well-loved here that they have a saying, “Tu estas más buena que el pan,” which literally means that you are better than bread—an extreme compliment in the Spanish world… In the morning you might enjoy un pitufo con tomate y aceite (toast with tomato and olive oil) or toast with olive oil dipped in your hot chocolate… Still trying to warm up to the latter idea myself. For lunch you might find yourself devouring some insane pollo asado and needing bread to soak up the extra goodness. We call this bread vessel that is transporting delicious sauce to your mouth un barquito (a little boat). If you’re eating something saucy at a restaurant, just ask for “musho (yes pronounce it that way) pan para mis barquitos,” and I guarantee you’ll be entertained by your waiter’s reaction.
Whatever the meal is, start walking down to the bakery right now. Imagine with me that it’s a typical Andalusian morning—the sun is shining, the Mediterranean is sparkling, and a general feeling of calmness surrounds you on your walk to the panaderia (bakery). A wall of bread greets you as you enter and timidly approach the counter—knowing the inevitable confusing exchange of Spanglish is about to ensue. “Yo quiero este… pan… alli, por favor,” you squeak out, stretching your body over the counter desperately trying to point to exactly which damn loaf you want. You suddenly realize that the only word for bread in your Spanish vocabulary is “pan.” And it’s really quite impossible to articulate exactly which pan you want to order—because it’s well, it’s brown and long and kind of round… exactly like how you’d describe all the unwanted bread surrounding your special loaf. It should be noted that most panaderies (at least in Nerja) don’t have labels for the different bread styles—hence the struggle. After a few experiences like this, I asked a friend how he can so easily communicate which “pan” he’s trying to get… And thus was born THE BREAD DIAGRAM.
Let’s start with the basics—you enter and greet the lovely person who will be assisting you in your epic bread quest by saying, “Buenaaas,”—slang for good morning/afternoon/evening. And now your big moment, “Quisiera…” This is a polite way of saying “I’d like…”
Your potential options:
Bollito— Smaller loaf similar to the barra that is typically used for bocadillos (Spain’s version of a subway sandwich)
Pan Cateto—meaning country bumpkin bread… I was pretty excited to add cateto (a country bumpkin) to my Spanish vocabulary!
Barra—this is Spain’s rendition of the baguette; The little roll next to the barra is called una pulga. Often times with your barra purchase, you get una pulga for free. Pulga translates to flea in English, but in reference to bread, it’s just a tiny, soft roll.
Piña—the print on the top of this bread gives way to its name, piña, meaning pineapple
Pan—yep, pan is the large round guy usually with an X imprinted on the top; often sliced for open faced sandwiches or to be eaten with meals
Mollete—this is a medium-sized roll sometimes used for hamburger buns
The Spanish word for wheat is integral, so if you’d like a wheat baguette, simply say, “Quisiera una barra de pan integral, por favor.”
There are many types of breads, but this should get you started on the basics at least. Special shout out to Panaderia Salvador in Nerja for the bread photos!